Threat Assessment

Cycling with Headphones

“Lala-Lala-Lah. The world has recognized my awesomeness and will not dare to hurt me!” Photo by Adrian Midgley. Creative Commons License.

Sometimes, when you are a cyclist, it seems as if the entire world is just itching for an opportunity to jump out at you, knock you down, back over you in an Escalade, and pour acid on your still twitching corpse.

That is not far from the truth.

However, not all potential threats are as immediate or of the same magnitude as others.  How can you differentiate in order to undertake your ride as safely as possible?  Luckily for you, I’ve developed a handy scoring system that will help you determine how much of a threat a given obstacle really is.  You simply calculate the number of factors present in a given obstacle, and then see if it reaches a certain numerical threshold.  These thresholds are:

100 Points Plus: Sociopath.  Preventive detention is the only remedy.
75 Points: Moron: If this person’s IQ were any lower their autonomic nervous system would shut down.
50 Points: Loose Cannon: Like its namesake, lacking in intelligence and needing to be restrained as soon as possible.
25 Points: Clueless.  Mostly Harmless. Typically more of a danger to self than others.

Before we look at some individual threats and their various point values I need to offer a brief disclaimer.  This list deals only with the threat posed to cyclists by human beings undertaking a variety of everyday activities.  It doesn’t cover human beings undertaking non-everyday activities (if you end up cycling through a police shoot-out with the members of a terrorist cell feel free to assign your own point values).  There are also a variety of cycling hazards posed by inanimate objects: lamposts, buildings, the road, your own bike.  If you are prone to damaging yourself against any of those objects you might want to rethink whether you should be on a bike in the first place.

The Threat List

Cars: 1000 points.  Everyone in any kind of automobile, even if they themselves are a cylcist is out to kill you.  You are an existential threat to their sense of world and self and need to be eliminated.  Big cars are a threat.  Small cars are a threat.  Cars standing still are a threat.  Recommend DefCon 1.

Cyclist in flip-flops: 10 points.  Obviously not that bright, but if they jam a foot through their front spokes or hamburger their toes it is really only their concern.

The slow-pedaling cyclist: 20 points if on a geared bike.  Some cause for concern here, since the person has so far not figured out that their bike has gears and that, like a car, these gears are probably there for a reason.

The TdF Wannabe: 40 points.  This person is much better at watching cycling than actually doing it.  You can usually recognize this person by their painstakingly matched replica Pro team kit, and the fact that the slightest rise in the road causes them to leap out of the saddle and whip the bike back and forth like a bondage scene out of Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Runner: 20 points.  Many people really suck at even walking in a straight line.  It is therefore exponentially harder for many people to run in a straight line.  Cyclists are advised, threatened, and sometimes even ticketed for failing to, warn runners when passing them.  The typical runner’s first response to a warning is, however, to leap out into your path.  I’ve often wondered if using an air horn would cause them to jump the other way.  Either that or shit themselves.

Wearing headphones: 20 point bonus to any score. With the exception of the following special cases.

The Runner with headphones: 60 points.  I’ve heard all the excuses.  “But I always have the volume down low.”  Or my favorite, “I always wear my noise-canceling headphones when I’m running” (you do realize those eliminate background noise in order to make your music effectively louder, right?).  The fact is, runners with headphones are all miles away from the here and now, raving with Armin van Buren in Ibeza as he lays down the latest A State of Trance.  If you see a runner with headphones don’t bother to warn them because they will not hear you.  Be alert for extremely unpredictable behavior: stopping suddenly in the middle of a trail, busting an impromptu dance move, flinging limbs wide to stretch, abrupt changes in direction.

Cyclist with headphones: 90 points.  If the person looks young and if you are a betting man or woman, probably a good candidate for the Darwin award.  When you figure the volume necessary to counteract the sound of rushing wind, etc. this person can’t hear squat and they don’t care.  They haven’t figured out that on a bike in particular your ears are often your only defense.  But again, they don’t care.  Mom probably still does their laundry as well.

Runners with a baby jogger: 15 points.  In my experience, these people are usually traveling almost as fast as you are.  But the mingled joy and horror at having spawned an object for which society now expects them to be responsible often results in reasonably predictable behavior.

Runners/walkers with a double-wide pram/jogger: 60 points. Not having taken the hint the first time around when some ill-advised unprotected sex produced a mewling, puking money-sink, this person has repeated their mistake.  The inability to learn from experience coupled with a) the fact that their apparatus often takes up the entire width of the average sidewalk or trail, and b) their tendency to stop the entire panzerwaggen unexpectedly to retrieve discarded objects or simply to make sure that the ankle-biters are still tucked up in their blankie-wankies makes this combination an extreme hazard.

Roller-bladers: 70 points.  They take up a lot of space and typically have about as much control over their bodies as Lindsay Lohan.

Cycling while talking on a cellphone: 60 points.  You just aren’t that important.

Cycling without a helmet: 90 points. This score refers to your garden variety recreational cyclist tooling along on their rent-a-bike or beach cruiser sans casque de velo.  Not only is this person lacking in common sense, but they are lacking in a quality I call “world awareness.”  Consider: this person has been biking around, seeing other bikes, some of which are being ridden by people with helmets.  They have either not noticed that some of those people are wearing helmets (likely if they are demonstrating some of the other behaviors on this list) or they have noticed.  But rather than thinking, “Hey, that looks like a good idea, even a little bit of extra protection couldn’t hurt” they have either stared uncomprehendingly or decided that a bike accident will never happen to them.

Cyclist carrying helmet dangling from handlebars: 130 points.  You know that helmets exist.  You know they exist for a reason.  SO PUT THE FUCKING THING ON!!!!!

The Orphan-Makers: 130 points.  An amazing number of parents insist that their kids wear bicycle helmets while out on a family rider, but the parents do not.  Way to be role models!  Because, you know, head injuries only happen to kids.  A startling percentage of the parents seem to be from outside the US, and have apparently not noticed that they are no longer in the Netherlands, or Germany; you’d think the number of cars trying to mow them down while they were on their bikes would have clued them in.  I’m sure they aren’t bad people: they are just bad parents.

That Guy: 150 points.  You know this guy (and it is always a guy) when you see him.  He is often wearing good quality cycling gear, but not the matchy-matchy Pro kit kind.  He’s usually riding a good bike.  He’s not wearing a helmet.  If you ask him he will probably say something about “kicking it old school” or “back in the day the pros never used to wear helmets.”  Well the pros didn’t have to ride on DC streets.  And “back in the day” tire innertubes were made of baby intestines and your seat was a sharp stake with a bit of vaseline smeared on it.  Life evolves.  Some people, however, don’t.

Well, that’s the short list.  Feel free to suggest your own road hazards and point values so I can make this Public Service Announcement as comprehensive as possible.


2 responses to “Threat Assessment

  1. Hysterical — my husband would love this!

  2. Added “The Orphan Makers” at the behest of my significant other.

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