Ride of Silence



#16 Crooked Tan Lines: Aug 3, 2013, IF RUNNERS WERE LIKE CYCLISTS…

(I thought this was posted on July 21, but just found it.)

I have just returned from Washington, DC, talking to members of Congress about the safety and justice of runners and cyclists, and The Ride Of Silence (May 15, 7PM, RideOfSilence.org), in conjunction with The National Bike Summit. Odd that one has to travel 1500 miles to talk to representatives who have offices in Texas (in some cases, they have offices right here in Dallas). But that’s another topic.
This was my second consecutive time to push the envelope, to meet with law makers and straddle an uncomfortable subject for many of them: cyclists and runners on the road.

Through the summit, it’s very apparent how much more organized the cycling community is over the runners. Very different attitude. Runners should be ashamed that they have nothing that compares to this, getting in the face of our representatives, and how they ride the coat tails of cyclists. (For the record, running is my home sport, where I have had most of my athletic success.)

If it weren’t for cyclists, runners would have almost no trails, what-so-ever. None. (Compared to Dallas’ corporately made Katy Trail, which also incorporates bikes, everything else revolves around bicycles, not fast moving pedestrians. Runners, by law, do not have the same legal rights to the road that cyclists do, as ANY police officer in Highland Park will quickly recite. (According to Bicycle Magazine and lawyer Bob Moinske, cyclists first won their right to use the roads in 1880.) That said, it is ironic that when a fast moving pedestrian (runner) is hit by a motor vehicle, the motorist is automatically at fault. When a cyclist is hit by a motor vehicle (with much more dire consequences), it is assumed the accident is the cyclist’s fault. Hmmmm. Point is, cyclists have a legal right to be there; runners never have, and still don’t. Not good.

Nevertheless, cyclists have leverage in Washington that runners do not. Even though both activities can claim their hobby to be recreational, used for exploration, and used for travel or commuting, it is only cycling that is used for commerce.

Ahhh, yes, commerce. Money. That green stuff that makes this country rattle and hum, laugh and strum. From Monday morning blues to Friday night lights, it’s money.

Let’s look at this. Running has some running stores that add to the local economies. True. That’s good. But, so does cycling. In fact, there are more bike stores, or places that sell bicycles, than running shoes, according to government statistics. And what bike shops sell, costs more, meaning more money for the local economy. Score: running 0, bikes 1.

For example, buying a pair of running shoes? $120, …maybe. A low to mid-grade bike? $1,000. At least.  But cyclists buy shoes also. Score: running 0, bikes 2.

And where the runner MIGHT buy a singlet ($30), shorts ($50), and socks ($10), and if you’re at one of Dallas’ two main running stores, a grenade belt, a miner’s light, and GPS (total $110), a cyclist will also get those same things except pay more (shirt $70-100, shorts $60-120, socks $12-15, GPS), plus a cyclometer ($50), helmet ($100-200), bike shoes ($125-300) and pedals ($75-200). Now THAT’s commerce! Running 0, bike 3.

But, it goes further.

Over the years, runners have been taken advantage of by every charity known to man, giving away all the money (commerce) they might have profited to build the organization of running as a sport, or at least help make it safe. Oooo. Point deduction.  Score: running -1, bikes 3.

Cyclists have lobbyists who stay in Washington, who “look after the store,” if you will. Yearly, they gather up cycling representatives from all 50 states, and even some countries, then walk the hallways of Congressional offices, going in person to discuss bikes and up-coming laws. (Running -1, bikes 4.)

(Map-21 has been the big bill sitting before Congress for two years that the League of American Cyclists [LAB] want passed. Its point is this: Even though bicyclists and pedestrians now account for almost 16% of all traffic fatalities in the US, states are spending less than 0.5% of their safety funds to solve this problem.)
Runners have none, NONE, of this type of organization. By comparison, runner’s consider it a victory if someone, anyone, in the political process wears a pair of running shoes! Really must shoot higher, guys.

Yes, every state has at least one running club or organization (Texas has the most with 20! California is second with 19. Total running clubs in the U.S., 176. But wait, there are at least 158 cycling organizations in just Texas and California has even more!). There are only 11 (Eleven!) national running clubs, total. Twelve if you count the National Association of Certified Race Distances.

That list includes everything from The Road Runners’ Club of America, USA Running (An organization that one would think would be plugged into the political process and fight for runners. Its goal as stated on its web site: “Running USA advances the growth and success of the running industry. Our overall goals as an organization are to promote, celebrate, and build the sport of distance running, and to provide quality services that enhance members’ businesses.” Note it says nothing of runner safety.), “Moms RUN This Town” (they’re push is to institute a new race distance: 19.65 miles, momsrunthistown.com/), and “Sexy Moms Running Club” (no kidding: www.sexymomsrunningclub.com/).

This is a sad state of affairs for runners and the future of running if there’s no one concerted voice. Not one of these running organizations speak to politicians at any level, let alone governmental, about runner concerns, namely safety, trails, and funding. It’s hard to believe runners purposely want it this way or have orchestrated this situation. Is it possible they could be standing there in the latest shorts, singlet with design, and matching socks, smugly saying, “We don’t need the political process.” Really?

One thing to fear about such a vacuum is one running group or store running rough shod over other organizations, an area (we’ve seen this locally), the sport, or worse, runners themselves. As the President of The Dallas Running Club four years ago, Libby Jones was ahead of her time when she appointed a club member to work as a liaison between the club and the Dallas City Council. The position faded away, but not the need, especially where Dallas runners do a lot of their training -at White Rock Lake- a Dallas City Park, under the whims of Dallas Parks & Rec (the same people that fired Bill Bragg, the voice for Big Tex for more than a decade; “Fair Park - a Cultural and Entertainment Center - is a division of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department.” – http://www.dallasparks.org/Parks/fairpark.aspx).

Thinking locally, it should scare anyone who laces up a pair of running shoes that they have no place in the political process. “So?” you might say. Consider that every race director worth an entry fee is very attuned to the political goings on to make sure their event is not torpedoed by an errant city council member with an ax to grind. It has happened at one time or another to every area race director, be it running, biking, swimming, triathlons, or duathlons. This is a reason why runners need to be organized. Also, if it matters, of the three sports in a triathlon, swimming-biking-running, it is only running that doesn’t have a governing body.
Please note, there were over 636 running events in the Dallas area last year, counting only weekend races, not including those races held during the week. That number far surpasses the number of bike and swim events, combined. The number of people involved in running alone, dictate that there should be a voice in the political process to instigate safety, trails, etc. Obviously, since the first running boom of the late 1960’s, runners or running outlets (stores, magazines, web sites, or directors) haven’t done anything to date.

Going to a running summit in Washington, DC to meet with state legislators could be sweeping, in many ways.

(The below local story involves cycling and shows that even when a sport is governed, there are still problems. Imagine when it is not.)

As a sidebar to this situation, consider what was scheduled this month for the Dallas cycling community:

Two issues ago, we wrote, “Under the ‘I Gotta See This’ category,” about the Bike The City bike rally, April 21, from Victory Park, downtown Dallas, to a street fair at downtown McKinney square. Their web site, bikedallas.net, said, “All four lanes of US-75 northbound will be shut down to allow cyclists to ride.” I can’t think of a better way to anger motorists against cyclists. “The organizers, unidentified at the time of this writing, didn’t have any backing, permission, or traffic plans of the several cities involved.” On another page of the web site, “We are closing down US 75 northbound from Mockingbird to McKinney,” as if motorists aren’t already upset with cyclists in the car-centric Metroplex. “Let’s hope IF the ride is allowed on Central Expressway, the pavement grooves don’t disrupt the riders,” we wrote. TERRY ZEIGLER and VICTORIA PIPER, two experienced athletes and cyclists, were skeptical at best. “Conventional wisdom and common sense says, ‘If it is too good to be true, then it is probably not true” said Zeigler. “This smells like a big scam. Get a large number of gullible people to send the ‘organizer’ $60.00. On the day of the event, 75 Central Expressway is still open, and all these people [are] trying to enter the highway on their bicycle. Just being a little cynical. Think about it: shut down 75 Central ‘distressway’ for several hours? I don’t think so.”

“Central Expressway was closed once,” said Piper, “and I did ride my bike on it. However, it was free to do so and an advertised ‘major’ event. It was for the opening of the High-Five. We cyclists lined up at the front of the parade. [Bike The City] does not indicate who is the sponsor and what the entry fee is going to. I'm with Zeigler.”

On February 10 an article appeared in the Dallas Observer titled, “Highway Closing Dallas-to-McKinney Bike Ride Cancelled in Sketchiest Way Possible.” It began, “Last month, director GARY LACARA was ‘100 percent’ sure that Bike the City, his 30-mile, Dallas-to-McKinney charity bicycle tour scheduled for a Sunday morning in April, was a go. ‘I wouldn't attempt this if I wasn't.’ Both Lacara and co-organizer, TIJMEN FELIX, deny Bike the City is some sort of scam and insist it will be rescheduled.” The article went on to disprove all of the organizations claims of permissions and meetings with city officials. It was looking more and more as a hoax.

Then Texas Dept of Transportation’s (TX Dot) MICHELLE RELEFORD (a former triathlete and cyclist, now TX Dot’s Public Information Officer) weighed in on February 15, verifying that two meetings were held concerning the bike ride. “It may be scaled down or postponed indefinitely. All the cities involved, Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Allen, Frisco and McKinney have to issue permits and he has to have an engineering set of traffic control plans outlining detours in every city as well as signage, and  police officers to close every ramp as well as exiting all traffic off the highway for the duration of the ride. My co-worker had a conference call with all of the cities’ police forces and none said they would give a permit to close Central in their city at this time. We’ve actually had city officials calling us in a panic thinking we alone were going to allow it. Not at this time.”

While there was skepticism (we thought it was a hoax from the start), in our phone conversation with Lacara, he swore it was the real deal. Despite all the PR and best of intentions (if there were any), in the end the ride folded.

VICKIE CAPERS was one of the cyclists who registered for $240. On February 20, she received an email that said in part, “As you may know, we have the continuing assistance/cooperation of most of the government organizations to create this once a year ride.  However, one city stands in the way of the ride as they object to the closing of US75.”

Before she received the cancellation email, she was asked why she registered in the first place, if she thought it was hoax, and if it was, if she thought she’d see her money again.

“I thought it was a neat idea. Riding down Central? How cool is that!” She envisioned herself riding along a road she had traveled along many times, but without anything behind or beyond it. One major concern (there were many) was the Grand Canyon size cracks known as expansion joints that populated the highway like branches on a tree. These could swallow a cyclist and require a search team to find him. The crashes resulting from these gaps in the pavement would be horrific when combined with the 40,000 cyclists predicted were going to come out.

Did she think a hoax? “Well,” a long pause, “I figured it was only money. I’d chalk it up to experience if it turns out to be a fake.” As it turns out, just as her email promised, she got all her $240 returned, immediately.

If you see a cyclist trying to get on Central Expressway, be patient. He didn’t get the email. Meanwhile, runners, you have a lot of catching up to do.