The cycling mafia strikes again
- Ivo Vegter
- 23 Nov 2010 05:08 (South Africa)
Cyclists seem to think it's okay to shut down major cities for their own entertainment. When the victims of their arrogance – who outnumber them by at least 100 to one – complain, they respond with foul-mouthed self-righteousness.
One fellow was moved to discuss my own opposition on a public board. First, he said he did not know me. In his very next message, he appeared to have been enlightened and described me in quite pornographic terms. Ironic, isn't it, from someone who says he agrees that cyclists are their own worst enemies?
Recently, this chap informed me that I had "called for the murder of innocent cyclists".
That such a view is very unlikely for anyone, let alone a published columnist, did not penetrate the red mist. His fluorescent comrades told him that I once wrote an article which ended with: "The next cyclist I see dies."
Thing is, I never wrote any such article.
Here's the truth: I once wrote an email to a small mailing list of which I had been a long-standing member. In it, I expressed frustration with not being able to get to where I had to be, and asked who these cyclists think they are to take over my city and close the streets. I'd thought to skive off instead, but one drinking buddy had to take a two-hour detour to get to my side of the road, and another couldn't get out of his house at all.
True to the tradition of that particular list, which enjoys eloquence and looks down on whining, I used hyperbole as a rhetorical device, to turn what might have been just another complaint into a humorous, over-the-top rant. I was not writing for publication, but hamming it up for the amusement of an intimate audience which had known me for years.
One of their number thought it would be funny to forward this email to a few cycling forums. It would indeed have been funny, if only to expose the cyclists' utter lack of humour. However, he didn't have the presence of mind to omit my contact details and home address.
All hell broke loose. I received death threats, of the personal, ring-ring-gonna-come-to-your-house-and-kill-you kind. Since they knew where my house was and what I looked like, this was unnerving. The fury of this bunch was all too clear. All it would take is one aggressive idiot sufficiently pumped up on steroids to make it happen.
Someone forwarded the email to the police, which sensibly concluded the obvious: I did not pose a genuine threat to anyone. Au contraire, in fact. The investigating officer thought it was pretty funny, but then, he hadn't been fielding my phone calls. Clearly, there was a great deal of irrational anger here, accidentally uncovered by someone who just thought he was being funny.
I soon learnt that cyclists – the organised, spandex-uniformed variety – are very unhappy that some of them become victims of road accidents. They come second in such encounters because they're not protected by a ton of steel, but cyclists believe motorists are out to get them. You might think everyday traffic accidents and once-off road closures are different subjects, but to cyclists, every subject is about motorists who kill cyclists. This was the persecution complex that my exaggerated note of frustration stirred up.
That I come from the country with the most bicycles per capita in the world made no difference. That I spent my entire childhood riding to school and delivering newspapers by bicycle didn't matter. That I owned a bicycle and quite enjoyed riding it was not relevant. My long-held opinion, that there is inadequate provision on South African roads for cyclists, might have mattered if any of them had bothered to ask, but they didn't.
I am a callous motorist intent on murdering innocent cyclists. The vitriol and anger still rages, years later. Every time one says something critical of cyclists, you get venom spat back.
I once dared to express the opinion that strong lights bobbing around on cyclists' helmets are dangerous. Lights should instead be mounted to the bicycle itself where they don't blind oncoming traffic. Response? I hate cyclists, and I want to kill them.
Out on an afternoon walk, I stepped off the pavement and held my dogs on a short leash to let some cyclists pass. As they swept past (three abreast, naturally), they loudly taunted the dogs. One hung a leg out as if to kick at them. The dogs were frantic, and I was tempted to loose them on the day-glow vermin, to show them just how funny they were being. Response? I hate cyclists, and want to kill them. (There, my cyclist friends, have a new quote, actually published, in a real article, to take out of context.)
Meeting cyclists in person, in the hope they'll be more polite, is not advisable. When they don't take over the television to inflict the Giro d'Testosterone on everyone else, they drink only water and complain that the place doesn't sell sachets of cycling drugs. A former friend thought it was okay to arrive at lunch in genital-shaped lycra stinking of sweat, guffawed about my encounter with his thuggish mates, and said I had it coming.
Compare their behaviour to that of motorcyclists. Bikers politely hang back until you can move over to give them some space. Then they wave their thanks on the way past. Despite their macho image, bikers create a sense of camaraderie among fellow road users, a feeling that we're all in this together. They know they'll come off second-best if it gets to squabbling over a piece of tar. By contrast, the cyclist's instinctive response to this annoying problem of sharing roads is to be rude and aggressive.
None of which has anything to do with the point that sparked all this hostility, which is whether cyclists have the right to close public roads for their personal use.
Especially in major cities, my view is they do not. This goes for cycling, box-cart racing, marathons, skateboarding, corporate walk-a-thons, parkour, charity dog walks or, indeed, motor-racing. We all pay for the roads, and we can all share them. If you want to arrange an event, pick somewhere sufficiently convenient that you don't annoy everyone. If you think you have a good reason to hijack major arterial routes, at least ask residents for permission and offer to compensate them for their losses.
It is telling that the organisers of the annual race in Johannesburg, when I spoke to them at the time, said they had no intention of doing an independent survey to gauge the opinion of residents about road closures. They had, however, sent some cyclists around to ask (read: inform) businesses along the route.
That's like sending the mafia around to ask if you'd care for a little protection. Do you think your fire insurance would let you refuse if a bunch of pumped-up goons in tights asked you to give up a day's revenue?
Organisers know full well that residents of a major commercial city would oppose the request to shut it down for a day. They know that without residents' consent, they're in the wrong.
If the request were reasonable, such as when it avoids major routes, or it's out in the country, or it's in a town that depends on the tourism revenue, residents would probably go along with it. They might even appreciate the effort you put in to obtain their consent. But these big-city races are not a reasonable imposition on residents.
The guy who called me such colourful names behind my back did not feel this should be an obstacle to his telling me why I am wrong. He made a number of points.
Cycling races bring in revenue, mostly through tourism, he said. This may be true, but you're robbing Peter to pay Paul. If I take over your commercial property by force, I'll also be better off than before. Also, I won't be paying your bond, so I'll be able to offer lower prices. It's a win-win situation: I win, and customers win. Only you lose, so stop whining.
Is my invasion of your property reasonable, in this light? Of course not. Even if you claim your event is on balance good for a city's economy, you have not established your right to curtail people's freedom to use their own roads. Besides, if your claim is true, you could offer compensation for inconvenience and financial losses to prove your case. Do that, and you'll get consent, no problem.
It's only "a very few" who "can't drive to the pub", he wrote. Wrong. A great number of people use the roads on Sundays, especially in big cities. Many do so for work. Supermarkets, hospitals, media companies, libraries, emergency services, restaurants, customer service departments, cinemas, maintenance crews, museums, builders; the list of companies that operate on Sundays is long. Some, like vehicle repair shops or DIY hardware centres, trade especially well on Sundays. Thousands of workers, many of whom really can't afford it, lose a day's wages to the selfish demands of rich cyclists.
Besides this, hundreds of thousands would like to attend church services, or visit their families for a traditional Sunday lunch, or watch some sport other than cycling with their friends. For every cyclist in the race, 100 people are being prevented from using the public roads they paid for.
There are alternative routes, he claimed. Actually, not in all cases. Try to get from Conduit Street, Johannesburg North (where I once lived) to Albury Road, Dunkeld West (where I had to be on that fateful Sunday). Not even the miles of gravel track that serves as a detour out of Johannesburg North can get you there. Many alternative routes – such as those that circumvent the entire 11.5km length of Jan Smuts Avenue from Braamfontein to Randburg – are very long and heavily congested. I don't care about the carbon emissions, but I do care about wasting people's time and money without their consent.
Race organisers donated R2 million to charity, he asserted. Well, so what if they did? The mafia is famous for funding schools and soup kitchens. Charitable giving allows the Catholic Church to cloak itself in layers of hypocritical sanctimony.
To be fair, as with cyclists, one might hazard to defend the Catholics. As with cyclists, there are undoubtedly decent people among them. But as with cyclists, the group as a whole has a very serious image problem because of the intolerance and anti-social behaviour of some among their number. The Church has to convince the public that this is just a minority that doesn't speak for the rest, as with cyclists, and that they're dealing with the problem. Until then, they'll remain the butt of jokes for those of us who prefer our standards of behaviour to be civilised – as with cyclists.
Whether you're a priest, a cyclist, or a mafia goon, you have no right to impose on the liberties of others, or cause them undue inconvenience or costs, without their consent.
If cyclists want to close a city, they should have the common decency to ask. But who am I kidding, expecting common decency from cyclists? DM
- Voting: there’s still time to change your mind
- Green tech is cool, but not because it’s green
- How Mmusi Maimane swindled a vote out of me
- The case to elect Malema to Parliament
- The intellectual gnome, Chomsky
- If Malema isn’t Pol Pot, is he still dangerous?
- Do Malema's followers understand ‘agrarian reform’?
- Look ma, I'm defending Shell's record in Nigeria!
- Any weather is evidence for global warming
- U-turn prof finds his fracking fears are avoidable
- Ramphele et al: The world according to angry feminists
- On HIV/Aids and scary-big numbers
- Cherry-picking ‘grey literature’ on rhino horn
- 350,000 reasons to kill a black rhino
- Eight myths about libertarians
- New Year’s resolutions for other people
- All I want for Christmas is a fire pool
- In defence of Donald Trump
- My old South African flag
- Fearful Fukushima fiction fatigue
- Do we tolerate private sector corruption?
- In defence of a lion killer
- Save the rare wine and endangered craft beer
- Forever blowing bubbles: shale gas economics
- Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill: When “certainty” means “wait and see”
- This land is my land: a revolution
- The launch of SA's Libertarian Party: herding cats in time for 2014
- The African case against the ICC
- The fossil fuel subsidy myth
- Think of the little fishies!
- The hilariously misunderstood libertarian
- The sickly history of sweeteners
- Pants on fire, but they’re not mine
- The obstructionism of shale gas activists
- How mind-numbing numbers whip up fear
- Why pick on Khanyi Dhlomo?
- Half-measures will fail the rhino
- Malema’s righteous anger... and naïve confusion
- Lottery licence to go to one lucky winner
- Vaccinations: when the state stabs the people
- Do reusable shopping bags kill people?
- The long walk to serfdom
- The Karoo desperately needs development
- The trials of Samson Shuttleworth
- The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest
- Raping the discourse about rape
- Who is the reasonable man?
- Fracking: Debating a big deal
- Who needs the Queen’s English?
- Electric cars: Taking from the poor to give to the rich
- Business Licensing Bill: An indefensible defence
- Red-tape tourism
- The Big Business Bribery Bill
- On Thatcher and society, Vavi and the market
- Extinction: Let’s make up numbers and panic!
- Feeding the world is getting easier
- Stop talking shit: Build your own toilet
- Climate change is pseudo-science
- Anti-competitive competition law
- The Department of Less Government
- An open letter to President Zuma
- In defence of Kim Kardashian
- The world’s weirdest wildlife sanctuary
- Boycott calls are simple-minded
- In defence of vegans
- The population explosion implodes
- Environmental backpedalling picks up pace
- How Mangaung can help and hinder entrepreneurs
- The elusive libertarian enclave
- The Gathering: Ivo Vegter
- The hidden overemployment crisis
- The case for constructive environmentalism
- Privatise the Western Cape's shacks
- Tenders: Not open to employees or their families
- Hurricanes fuel climate sensationalism
- Next: Gross-out warnings on food
- No new deal: The failure of Zumanomics
- Benoni has a bright idea
- Was I wrong about acid rain?
- Public food gardens: Where dumb ideas thrive
- Rethinking the costly food label madness
- Give hunting a chance
- Fracking gets green light, but here's the risk
- Socialists, bless 'em, visit Cape Town
- Buy a 1Time ticket now
- Give the ANC credit where credit is due
- The myth of the competent apartheid government
- It's a disaster that 'peak oil' is not a disaster
- No Gravy: a label for sustainable business
- This lightbulb's going to blow
- Smokers? Get 'em up against the wall!
- Inflating the obesity scare
- Bring a Shotgun to School Day
- GMOs: Hacking genes to feed the world
- The hidden dangers of charity
- Fracking: the unread paper debated
- Fracking: The “U-turn” paper nobody has read
- Eco-cronyism is as dangerous as any other
- SKA: Be grateful Karoo residents didn't object
- Energy: Get cracking on fracking
- Fair trade, unfair trade-off
- Casual labour is only bad for Vavi's unions
- 'Externalities', the catch-all justification for regulation
- 'Externalities', the catch-all justification for regulation
- How do we fix our dismal education?
- Barter: the rebirth of sound money
- Rights are not entitlements
- Debunking 'limits to growth' inanities
- Tax: Why align with "most other countries"?
- Newspaper sensationalism doesn't help rhinos
- Rolling Stone reprises Gasland's fracking fantasies
- Cosatu's manipulative march move
- Why do 16 million people not constitute an economy?
- The age of smear politics
- Does fracking cause earthquakes?
- The Chinese model is morbidly obese
- Green tech: doubling down on a losing bet
- Rape, pornography, and hell's grannies
- Petrol taxes won't hurt the poor
- Jailtime mooted for bad weather warnings
- Let's ban bans, and start with CITES
- In defence of overpaid sport stars
- On the death of Kim Jong-Il
- COP17: Let's ban fire
- Cancer gets you when nothing else can
- COP17: The 'party on' agenda
- COP17: The Blue Line of Death
- New seven natural inanities
- Occupiers' anger is all that makes sense
- The Luddites and Technocrats live on
- Malema marches for economic slavery
- Profitable purveyors of pudendal prettiness
- Sense? Us?
- If they want rhino horn, let's sell them some
- "Stimulate" economy by ending telco abuses
- Executive pay makes nobody poorer
- Malema's real persecution
- Mogoeng: Lock up your daughters
- Don't mandate insurance, deregulate healthcare
- I sympathise with Malema's persecution complex
- Short selling: panicked pols ban proof of failure
- Don't blame those who saw it coming
- What's obscene about profit?
- In defence of Bombela
- Dear president Zuma, you are not above the law
- The economics of love
- Treasure the Karoo? Ban the SKA!
- Malema is right, you know
- Gautrain's PPP: political patronage profiteering
- Kumi Naidoo is no hero
- LeadSA fails to lead when it matters
- No logo means carte blanche
- The drug war: dopey but dangerous
- A response to fracking critics
- Don't vote. It's your right.
- Welcome Walmart
- If you're happy and you know it clap your hands
- Buy local, support poverty
- Ubuntu, the free-market way
- Karoo fracking scandal exposed!
- I'm ashamed for my profession
- The bill of bunkum
- Being gay: a brand new concept!
- Who's afraid of the nuclear wolf?
- The nationalisation canard
- Ogilvy should grow a spine
- The new robber barons
- A classy revolution: Why we cared
- Bombastic Bombela balks
- Liberty is more than mere democracy
- Gautrain has a law unto itself
- The irony of 'services for all'
- How to hire a hitman in SA
- Arrive alive and neurotic
- The oppression of taxis
- Protection of Information Bill and why WikiLeaks is so dangerous
- Fifa, Russia and Qatar deserve each other
- One day, we'll all hate WikiLeaks
- The cycling mafia strikes again
- What Julius got for Christmas
- Let's return the beads
- Away with fascist seat belt laws
- Tintin Mbeki in the Sudan
- How the ANC can make everyone happy
- Currency: the race to the bottom.
- Hurrah for national healthcare!
- Give Zimbabweans citizenship
- Carte Blanche has no carte blanche
- That finger-licking, lip-smacking taste
- Bomb the barbaric lot already
- Green tax: another raid is coming
- Do strikers deserve anything?
- The media will lose this battle
- Global warmism needs a fisking
- A glass half-full
- Go ahead, have a baby
- Stop the handouts - end xenophobia
- The right to fire
- FIFA's heart of darkness
- Have some self-respect
- I ordered an orange skirt
- Secretly, Match blames South Africa
- The stupendous Gautrain: a rare marvel!
- The Fifa conquistadors are coming!
- What's wrong with everyone?
- Leave poor BP alone
- The destructive power of government
- The bonsai economy
- The darkness of Africa
- Who is ripping off whom?
- Anatomy of a whitewash
- While FIFA takes over, we fight
- The pointless pretence of Earth Hour
- Ten reasons to reject climate alarmism
- Really, boycott the FIFA farce
- The climate dominoes fall
- Lessons in ethics from Dick Cheney
- Screw the consumer
- In defence of bankers
- Break the banking cartel
- Julius Malema, the walking contradiction
- Boycott FIFA
- Climate clarity
- In defence of Boney M
- Pray Copenhagen fails
- Capitalism is not unkind
- Climate fraud kills people
- Pop goes the hot air balloon
- Peace, love and schadenfreude
- The irony of the left
- Too late to cool it?
- Going cold turkey