Sunday, September 21, 2014

The hierarchy of responsibility

I have written here about what I take to be a passive aggressive irksomeness in the announcement of bikers who pass me. "On your left!" they say according to law, or custom, or etiquette, I'm not sure which. All I know is it has always startled me into dangerous jolts and lurches and made me wonder just what's going on with these bikers. Most of these paths are quite wide. Why do I feel a thinly veiled peevishness in their alerting announcement?

So I left my pronouncement as:

"Please don't say 'on your left' if you can at all avoid it"

And that was that.

Then something happened. I started passing people on my bike. Oh, it still doesn't happen often. I am not fast on a not fast bike. But it happens, and it has given me a curious new view, a view that many a biker before had, and perhaps still has, of me.

It runs roughly like so:

What are these people doing on these bike paths! Are they drunk? Look at them, on foot or by bike, weaving across three large biking and walking lanes so as to effectively shut them down. Is it so hard to walk in even a vaguely straight line? Or how about these people, in tandem with one or more other people, spread out, just so, to take up every  bit of possible passing space short of veering into the trees. Irritating! Infuriating! I am almost of a mind to (quietly) yell at the selfish fools:

"On your left."

That will show them. And certainly no one could fault me for it.

So now I understand.

But I still argue against calling out "On your left" no matter how fun it might be to see those self involved walkers, and maddeningly moseying bikers, jump and scatter.


The more powerful you are the more responsible you are. I don't care how infuriating and annoying and clueless are those people below you, you, to some extent, are obliged to watch out for them. Big trucks for cars, cars for bikes, bikes for walkers and everything in between. My bike cannot kill your car. I do not have plush seats and power acceleration and heating and immunity. Power is danger. If you take on that power you are responsible for that danger. My 10 miles an hour on a bike creates a danger that simply does not exist purely among walkers. And so I am a steward of that danger, a shepherd of those walkers. They may bug me, but I do not have the right to discomfit them.

And so it is in all things across the world. Heed well rich people, strong people, powerful people, everywhere.

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