What a sanctimonious blowhard. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske wrote this smoking heap of dung for the bicycle rag factory mag VeloNews, admonishing us to obey the law and be model, upstanding bicycle citizens.
The basic premise is that by riding like scofflaws we make cagers hate us and do the greater cycling community a disservice. Then Miss Manners Mionske admonishes us that the madcap, out of control group ride “creates an enormous public-relations problem for us with the general public and with their legislative representatives.”
Bob then reminds us that, “We have a constitutional right to the road, as I established in my book ‘Bicycling & the Law.'” Founding Father Robert Mionske. Who knew?
Finally, we learn that adrenaline-soaked early season group rides in which someone gets hurt can result in *horrors* lawsuits. Having fallen asleep in his torts class for forty years, Professor Mionske belts us with this legal bugaboo: “Individual riders on group rides that have injured pedestrians, other cyclists or caused a motor vehicles to lose control have personally been sued. Because the injured party in these actions can rarely specify who caused their injuries they will name, in their suit, any riders they can identify from the group. Under a different theory of law lawsuits in these cases will also seek to attach legal liability to clubs, shops and even racing teams that are, in some way, affiliated with the group ride.”
In other words, just being the tongue-in-spokes wanker on the tail of the whip can send you to lawsuit hell where the aggrieved plaintiff will take everything you own.
Which leads to a reasonable question: Whose side is this asshole on?
It’s true, bicyclists shouldn’t break the law. Neither, Bob, should cagers. Or anyone, for that matter. That’s why they are called “laws” instead of “personal directives ordained by the Great Dictator.”
It’s not true that cagers hate us because we break the law. If that were true, cagers would hate each other, gun owners, and motorcyclists a million times more. Cagers mow us down with impunity because law enforcement treats dead cyclists as the price of doing business, cf. Milton Olin and hundreds of others.
Cyclists are hated because laws are arbitrarily enforced against us, and cagers know that they can abuse us and harm us and face little in the way of consequences. Mionske’s wholesale distribution of the canard that we are our own worst enemy is like the apologists who used to explain away the evils of segregation by telling people to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”
As for the crazed group ride in which every participant is a potential defendant, that is simply untrue. While it’s true that anyone can sue any other person any time for any reason, prevailing is a different matter. And what’s the solution? Stop riding in groups just because one or two yahoos ride like idiots? Newsflash: Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines a group ride as “A conglomeration of idiots on wheels.”
The real solution to bad group behavior is the one that Lawyer Mionske refuses to consider because he himself is so afraid of lawsuits–starting each group ride with a little speech. I’ve seen the guys at BCCC do it every ride. They go over the route, introduce any newcomers, and let people know what’s expected of them. Eventually people get the message and the rides acquire a certain discipline.
The down side is that the person who steps up and gives the speech really does become a potential target, as he could be sued as a “promoter” of the ride. But so what? Are you going to live your life in fear of lawsuits, Bob? And aren’t you a lawyer? And don’t you feel personally responsible for the people you ride with? Are you such a chicken-ass that you can’t do what Mike Norris of our local Wheatgrass Ride does–give a talk each week to warn people about going slow in certain areas and riding with safety in mind?
If every group ride started with a little speech, yes, there would be some incremental increase in litigation risk for the speaker (greatly reduced when the speaker reminds everyone that this is an informal ride, that the speaker isn’t the promoter, and that everyone there voluntarily assumes the risk of catastrophic injury and death), but overall the rides would be much safer. The Nichols Ride in L.A. cries out for this kind of leadership, as do many others.
Instead of blaming cyclists for being victims and exhorting responsible people to avoid group rides because of the risk of litigation, Bob needs to go to Oz, get a pair of courages, and be a leader. Maybe then his status as a former 7-11 rider in the 80’s might actually be something more than a marketing hook.
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