Ethical Quandaries: Running Lights and Walking Dirty

[lame attempt to engage readership]Hi!  How are you?  I'm pretty good.[/lame attempt to engage readership]  As you certainly know by now, NASA successfully landed this Rover thing on Mars which is already sending sick "edits" back to Earth:

This is a crucial first step in the gentrification of the "Red Planet," and at this rate it should only be a couple of years before people move there with their fixed-gears and start complaining about how there isn't a velodrome.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, Randy Cohen's New York Times opinion piece in which he explains why he runs red lights on his bicycle by evoking the philosopher Immanuel Kant (that's pronounced "I'm annual CUNT") has generated a great deal of discussion.  In fact, even noted columnist Felix Salmon (that's pronounced "FEE licks SAM-min'") has weighed in to say that Cohen's defense is "one of the weakest ethical defenses imaginable:"

Like Cohen, Sammin' makes some excellent points, though I disagree with some of them, including these:

One of the weirder parts of Cohen’s essay is that he extols Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which are cities where, to a first approximation, all cyclists always stop at all red lights, and don’t go again until the light turns green. Doesn’t he understand that in order for New York to work as a cycling city, cyclists will have to stop taking the law into their own hands? “Uninterrupted motion,” he writes, “gliding silently and swiftly, is a joy.” Well, yes, it is. Uninterrupted motion is quite nice for car drivers, too, but they stop at red lights. And even pedestrians generally wait until the way is clear before they cross the street.

If riders in Amsterdam and Copenhagen don't run red lights, it's almost certainly because there are so many of people on bikes, which means they don't have to "take the law into their own hands" like we sometimes do.  I think this is because Amsterdam and Copenhagen have long ago reached what the bike advocates refer to as "critical mass."  (Not the ride you do on your old crappy ten speed as an excuse to look for a date, but the actual state of having lots and lots of bike commuters, which is what ultimately makes cycling safer.)  At the same time, because there are so many people on bikes in these cities, they couldn't all run red lights even if they wanted to, since they'd just get hopelessly snarled.  Most of all though, I resent his false claim that drivers in New York City stop at red lights, because it's simply not true.  (And forget about stop signs.  Yesterday a driver beeped impatiently at another driver who actually stopped for me at a stop sign.  See, in New York City you're not supposed to stop at a stop sign, especially if there's a cyclist in the intersection.)

In any case, I only hope Cohen responds to this, because I'm looking forward to a protracted no-holds-barred dorky newspaper columnist bike etiquette slapfight.

Of course, there are also those cyclists who believe that red lights mean "go faster," and they're called "messengers:"

If you want to see the complete documentary, the filmmaker is holding it for ransom, and you'll have to give him the $60,000 he wants in order to finish it:

This may sound like a lot of money for a movie about messengers, but keep in mind the centerpiece of the film is a death-defying alleycat race from the northern tip of Manhattan to Battery Park between Randy Cohen and Felix Salmon, and I hear the scene where Cohen skitches off of a Subaru Forester for the entire length of the Henry Hudson Parkway while comparing and contrasting various normative ethical theories is breathtaking.

Speaking of ethics, you know what's not so ethical?  Looting ghost bikes for parts:

Though I suppose there's a crucial difference between unethical behavior and stupid behavior:

Belcher also got a tip when a thief tried to sell a stolen ghost bike — placard still attached — to a bike shop.

That sort of desperate behavior can usually be attributed to drugs, so perhaps it was the Gran Fondo Doping Fred looking for his next hit of EPO.

Meanwhile, in other doping news, Stevil Kinevil and others have informed me that an Olympic walker has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs:

This surprised me for two reasons.  Firstly, I had no idea walking was an Olympic sport.  Secondly, I wouldn't think a race walker would resort to EPO, since it seems to me as though the best way to increase your walking performance would be to run instead.  In any case, I wonder where race walking coaches go to scout for talent.  They probably spend a lot of time in the lobbies of office buildings watching people hurry to the elevators.  One minute you're walking briskly to beat those closing doors, and the next you're getting the tap on the shoulder of your oxford shirt that changes your life.  Soon you're trading your loafers for racewalking shoes, you start competing professionally, and the expression "A walk in the park" starts taking on a completely different meaning.  Then one day the stress of competition becomes too much for you, you start taking EPO, and suddenly you're the hottest walker since Charlie Chaplin.

But as tragic as all this is, the saddest is when the amateur race walkers start cheating too.  It's just not fair to the rest of us.  The other day, I just missed a subway train by a mere second, and as I watched it pull away it occurred to me that the guy who managed to get on just before me was probably doping.  It made me sick.  (And don't get me started on those foot couriers and their blatant disregard of the walk signal.)

By the way, if you're shopping for a race walking shoe, here are some reviews:

"I'm still a big fan of the Brooks T7s... of course, I'm not doing too much RWing these days ... sort of slid back into running. But even if I was full-time RWing, I'd be wearing the T7s."

I enjoyed the part about how she "slid back into running."  I suppose the discipline loses a lot of participants due to the high number of people who eventually come to their senses and break into a jog--though I'm sure at least some of those people get winded, start walking again, and return to the sport almost instantly.  In fact, judging from what I see in the park, hundreds of people go from race walking to running and back to race walking again in the course of a single workout.  Really, if they want to keep people walking they should just legalize the "Wednesday weed," since the last thing it makes you want to do is run.

I guess the cycling equivalent of race walking would be a match sprint without the actual sprinting part, and speaking of track cycling the New York Times is now "hip" (get it?) to the "quad-off:"

Though they make no mention of the whole "moon boot" trackie fashion phenomenon:

Those will be perfect for that Martian velodrome.
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