Wednesday, August 26, 2009

i'm taking my ball and going home

the big news that rocked the Chapel Hill cycling community is the crash at the Saturday morning ride. the "P-Ride", formerly known as the Performance Ride because it left from the Performance Bicycle Shop (now relocated--not to be mistaken with the Pride Ride (now defunct)), is a local institution for riders across the short-side of the Research Triangle. but so what? you get a bunch of cyclists together, trying to ride fast on narrow country roads. someone crashes. it was bound to happen. people get pissy, then immediately go home and excitedly start shopping for a fancier, new wheelset. what's the big deal?

but what factor has elevated this wreck from comical gaff to an Armstrong/Mayo-esque incident that will be debated for decades? the main issue is that the rider that allegedly caused the crash has a reputation for an erratic and sometimes dangerous riding style. now i'll admit, i was on the ride and i did see the results of the crash, but i didn't see how it happened. all accounts of the accident (excluding any account from the rider in question) seem to support the story that this dude tried to attack from within the pack, somehow ended up getting his bike sideways, crashed himself, and caused a pile-up. totally his fault. adding to matters is the fact that this guy has reportedly brushed off critiques (both friendly and hostile) of his riding and has taken to riding with headphones. i do not personally know this guy and i don't want to use this space here to badmouth him, but i am familiar with his riding style and i will say that i try to stay away from him because i perceive him as dangerous.

i'm not trying to indict this guy or to defend this rider. the issue at hand is safety. as cyclists, we place a lot of trust in the people we ride with, as well as the cars we share the road with. a lapse in concentration, either by one's self of others, can cause an accident. this is part of the bargain we willingly accept. i've done foolish things from time to time, but i like to think that i recognize and learn from my mistakes--sometimes through a comment from another rider, sometimes through road rash. gross negligence, however, may not only affect the individual, but also the group. and the chapel hill group is on edge.

currently, the talk is that this guy will be banned from the group ride. not necessarily permanently, but at least until he exhibits that he can ride more responsibly with others. the process has been playing out on the googlegroup with civility never seen before on an internet forum. i'm not being sarcastic here, it's actually quite impressive. even one of the guys who was taken down in the wreck is writing with a thoughtful and compassionate tone. (the snarkiest debate centered on spelling and grammar (possibly initiated by English scholars)).

this whole controversy provides an interesting question: can you actually ban someone from a group ride? there is no league, no referees, no membership card, no one standing between an individual and the activity. no one, but a collective group. so, the question of "can" is really a question of "how". say someone just decides that they want to ride with you (like that dude in dirty jeans and a clunky mountain bike did, albeit briefly, on the Durham Tuesday ride this week), how can you stop them. you can't just ride quickly away (that's the entire thing that people want to participate in). you can't secretly change the time or the location (at least, not if you want most other people to show up, too). i guess it has to be done with convincing words and group solidarity. pro riders will strike--stop riding and just sit or their bikes or ride very slowly--to protest dangerous riding conditions (occasionally) and doping raids (more frequently). i guess this is the equivalent of taking your ball and going home. when someone makes conditions too dangerous, the fun has to stop. is this the right solution to this problem? will it start us down a slippery slope to also banning wheel suckers or people whose shorts don't match their jerseys and socks and gloves? or, do we need more self-regulation? should other dangerous also be given a "time out" until they are deemed fit to return to society?

What's to be done? I guess we'll see on Saturday.


JeffS said...

At some point you get together and kick the guy's ass at the end of the ride. The appearance of the headphones signaled that point.

No, I'm not just playing internet tough-guy. If he'd had them on when the wreck happened it should have been done in the middle of the street.

DukePirate said...

Drama! Excitement! Intrigue!

Glad to hear that things are being handled maturely, though equally sorry to hear about the initial incident. I'm not a big fan of riding with headphones period (road, mountain, commuting, whatever), but I understand that some people really enjoy it. I can't imagine doing so on the P-ride, as it's too big and complex for it to work. Moreover, there's so much communication that goes on in the group that I wouldn't want to miss out.

I hope that this resumes itself quietly, as it's hard to imagine cycling in the Triangle without the P-ride. Good luck!

DukePirate said...

So what happened Chris? Inquiring minds want to know.