Monday, January 4, 2010

Starbucks Rider Injured And It Gets Worse

I was horrified to learn that a racer from the Starbucks Race Team was almost killed on Saturday.  A King 5 Website described the accident as follows:

The Washington State Patrol is seeking witnesses to a bicycle accident on SR 202 east of Redmond Saturday that left a 49-year-old Seattle man seriously injured. The State Patrol says at 11:45 a.m., a group of about 10 bicyclists with the Starbucks Racing Team were traveling westbound on SR 202 near Ames Lake Road when one of the riders was forced off the road and into a ditch to avoid being hit head-on by a minivan.

Witnesses said the red minivan, possibly a newer model Honda Odyssey, was traveling eastbound at an extremely high rate of speed as it crossed the yellow center line and passed several eastbound vehicles while in the westbound lane.

The minivan forced the westbound bicyclist to take evasive action to avoid being struck.

This reported version sounds less alarming than the version reported to me by my former team mates.   Starbucks Race Team, soon to be SCCA Race Team (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance), rode on the shoulder of SR 202.  They only intended to use 202 as connector for a few miles.  They, as typical of this well drilled team, rode in a rotating paceline, i.e., single file.  The driver of a red van passed traffic coming from the opposite direction and veered over the fogline into the shoulder where the team road.  According to a Starbucks team member, the driver “quite literally just about killing all of us in the pace line as he had drifted over the fog line into the shoulder while accelerating close to 70 mph.  It was friggin scary.”

On the King 5 website, readers were able to post comments.  Several of the readers’ comments are truly shocking.  The first reader to comment, wrote “Give the guy a medal for trying to clear the road of irritating vermon.”   

Another wrote “I would have more sympathy if bicycle riders did not act like they own the road. . . When you ride on a two lane road with no shoulder then you risk getting hit or run off the road. There are plenty of bike trails . . .”

The one that bugs me the most is this one: “Sorry people, but if the road was not built to accommodate bicycles then your taking your chances. Ride at your own risk.”

In the early 1900s, one of the most popular spectator sports in America was cycling. There were hundreds of velodromes across the nation.  Thousands trekked to the races and cheered as enthusiastically for the racers as any Superbowl.  Now, cyclists are “vermon”, worthy of being run down like dogs. There are clearly some who clearly believe that if someone kills or injures a cyclist, they should be given a medal.

What happened to the American respect for human effort?  One answer is simply that Henry Ford invented the automobile.  From that moment, the thrill of watching machines race with far less effort but at much greater speeds captivated America.  Bicycle racing became a footnote.

I recently viewed two photos of Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle. One was taken in the 1900s and the other by the Google Maps cameras recently.  The architecture is the same. The lay out of the streets is the same. The difference is the girth of the people in the photos. People in the 1900s photos were rail thin.  The people in the modern photos were, well, large.  Let’s face it -  Americans are becoming obese.

According to a Time magazine article,  “[j]ust two decades ago, the incidence of overweight in adults was well under 50%, while the rate for kids was only a third what it is today. From 1996 to 2001, 2 million teenagers and young adults joined the ranks of the clinically obese (see "What Is BMI?"). People are clearly worried. Here is the link to the article.

There are many causes of obesity in America but one of them is the automobile.  At the time thin Americans enjoyed bike races, it took much more effort to do everything.  Work was hard.  Obtaining and preparing food took effort and there was far less of it.  Today, we can literally drive our cars, stop at places that give us food in our cars and actually arrive at our destination with a net GAIN in calories. 

The Starbucks rider who was almost killed was 49 years old.  He has a broken left clavicle and rib along with fractured radius and a fractured wrist.  Before he was injured, he was training with his team and burned, on average, 750 calories per hour.  Had he not been injured, he would have been on his bike for at least three hours.  He would have burned in this one training event as many calories as the caloric budget of the red minivan driver for the entire day.  Yet, this is the guy who should get a medal?

Several days ago, an Al Queada operative attempted to ignite a bomb on a jet.  It has been said to re-focus America’s efforts on the fight against terrorism.  Several millions, if not billions of dollars, will no doubt be directed to Yemen to fight the extremists who are training there and planning new attacks on Americans. 

In 2008, 34,017 Americans were killed by automobiles.  I understand that this is too simply stated but check out the more detailed statistics at this link.

In contrast, 2,973 people were killed on September 11, 2009.  I am not comparing automobiles to terrorism but it is strange that Americans are essentially of like mind when it comes to fighting terror, yet 32,000 more American are killed every year by cars. 

Cars have changed us.  Our nation is different because of them.  We are fatter because of them.  Many of us are killed or injured because of them.  Worse, they have changed our national character.  Think of the last incidents you have had in the last year in which you felt incredible stress or extreme rage and chances are the incident involved a vehicle.  Cars have made us obsessed with ease, convenience and speed to the point where it is more important to us than human life. Anyone who gets in our way is “vermon.”   Here is a quote from a reader on the King 5 website:  “I have no empathy for the riders who force everyone else to slow down for them as if they think they have the right.”

What happened to us?