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Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Critical Mass

It was a good Mass, especially for wintertime. Winter Critical Mass can be a dodgy proposition. Riding bikes is fun in any weather, but the social aspects of Critical Mass are trickier. Standing around drinking beer in stupidly cold weather just isn't that fun.

But the low 40s isn't really stupid cold. I dressed considerably warmer than I would for just riding in this weather, wore gear appropriate to maybe the low 20s down into the teens.

And while I know it doesn't actually help keep you warm, a little Irish whiskey sounded like it'd hit the spot as well. I haven't had Jamison in ages, and while it's far better sipped from a glass, allowing you to really inhale the aroma of peated malt, the chilly air makes it taste awfully good straight out of the bottle.

I wasn't the only one riding who passed around a bit of brown liquor. Summertime, you'll see a bit of the hard stuff from time to time but mostly just beer and the very occasional bottle of wine.

We went through the Plaza, stopped in Loose Park for the first time in my experience anyway, threatened to visit the Nelson and wound up at the Liberty Memorial where we gave the security guys something to look at. Right after we got there, a loudspeaker said, 'Security. Bicycles are not allowed on the observation deck.'

I doubt the Memorial has more than one or two guards on duty at night, it's not that busy a place, especially this time of year.

And if we'd ignored them, I suppose the worst they could do is call the cops and say we're trespassing on the basis of ignoring their voice-of-God bullshit. I've had my bike on the observation deck many times, set up my tripod and shot long exposures of Union Station and downtown, interacted with guards and only ever been asked not to ride my bike on the observation deck.

But the group migrated about fifty feet and the party resumed on the steps just outside the observation deck and I guess at that point we weren't worth hassling. I'm sure even if they called the law, the cops would first try to just get us to leave, I can't imagine they have a great appetite for the paperwork involved in the mass arrest of three or four dozen people who really aren't up to no good.

I don't recall a rider on a gray BMX bike, but I learned the following morning in Facebook's Critical Mass group that some people seemed to think there was one. A cyclist fitting that description was killed crossing Southwest Trafficway at 9:30, about the time someone would likely be if he left the Liberty Memorial when most of us did and, say, had parked his car at Sunfresh. Whether he was with Critical Mass or not, a tragedy.

A tragedy compounded by what passes for journalism in America today. KCTV5's site corrected the headline describing him as a 'pedestrian' killed, as if a bike is not a vehicle on the road, but it's a familiar narrative angle I've never seen deviated from in reporting cycling fatalities.

The cyclist apparently hit the median and fell into the road where a pickup crushed him, but implicit in the description is 'what the hell was he doing on Southwest Trafficway in the first place?' This is Westport on a Friday night, which means the cyclist might be impaired and/or taking chances he shouldn't, but it sure as shit also means there's a statistically high chance the driver of the pickup was impaired and/or distracted.

For my own part, I'll admit I was impaired by the time I left the Liberty Memorial. The difference between being impaired on a bicycle and being impaired behind the wheel of a pickup truck is highlighted by what happened on Southwest Trafficway whether either person was impaired or not.

I think we've evolved as a society to the point where a rape isn't investigated first on the question of the victim's clothing, state of intoxication, etc. We haven't yet reached the point where a police shooting doesn't emphasize the victim being 'unarmed' (if being armed means it's okay for someone to be gunned down, deprived of life without due process, logically all cops need to be shot on sight). Maybe someday we'll collectively decide roads are for people, that pedestrians, cyclists, disabled folks on Rascal scooters, everyone has just as much right to get where they're going alive, and reasonable expectation of doing so, as motorists.

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