“The Lecture” and “The Myth of Sisyphus”.


“I know the law, but, …”

I cringe when I hear (or read) that phrase. We all seem to use it sometimes. I’m guilty too. Most often it’s the intro to “The Lecture”.

The leaning forward. The lowering of the chin. The eyes of “Inarguable Truth” staring directly into yours. The hunched shoulders and clasped hands. You go to speak, and up comes the hand, palm toward you, signalling you to wait. ….. The pursed lips, ready, prepared, and, settling in. A quick breath, and here we go,… with resignation, …

“Let’s get real here”.

A shaking head and the hand again, for once “The Lecture” begins it must be completed, or it’s profound truths may be lost. And so, following as he or she must, the lecturer moves into the first of two key “Inarguable Truths”:

    points out how much a car weighs vis-a-vis a cyclist

    explains basic physics

    raises eyebrows, drops chin, and looks into eyes

The end is the truly beautiful part. The epiphany, as it were. Your epiphany.

The actual, ugly truth – a cyclist hit by a car moving at speed will most likely die a horrible death, is never mentioned. It’s subtly, but profoundly, implied. No words needed.

A magical moment, really, as it’s built on respect – the lecturer has granted that, given the evidence presented, and your epiphany, you can surely do your own math. All you needed was to be awakened to the truth.

Sometimes, mercifully, it moves to the second “Inarguable Truth”. And then it’s over. That fast. Just a few lines, and a few seconds of your time.

Or, ,,,

Subsequent lecture options include:

    stating roads are made for motor vehicles
    pointing out most people drive and will continue to do so
    mentioning that cyclists are “exposed” vis- vis contained drivers
    explaining car safety features vs “exposed” cyclists
    noting the effect of road conditions on traffic
    reminding us there are legions of bad drivers
    accepting there are many distracted/drunk drivers

All moving inexorably, inevitably toward, finally, the ace in the hole, the biggie:

The second, and primary “Inarguable Truth”.

    “it doesn’t matter whether you’re right or wrong when you’re dead”

Spoken with all the certainty of a teen on his eighth beer, sobering up to drive home.

We Get It

We all “get it”, right? All on our own, without coaching. Certainly everyone with the minimum wherewithal “gets it” that the cars sharing the roads with cyclists weigh a lot more than cyclists do.

And yet I’m regularly asked, even by friends and others I respect, even by other cyclists (often accompanied by an anecdote) whether I and other bike commuters understand and appreciate the difference between what a car weighs and what a cyclist weighs.

Clearly we do, or should. Only an idiot doesn’t. And I mean a real idiot, like the can’t tie their shoes kind. Does that mean the Lecturer thinks we’re idiots? What to do?

Why argue? Maybe it just needs to be explicitly said. So once again I slip on my Captain Obvious tights so that it can be written:

all grown up cyclists understand that motor vehicles weigh a lot more than a cyclist on a bike and that if they get hit by said motor vehicle moving at speed they will die.

Ahhhhhh. … Let’s all get beyond that. Wishful thinking?

It would appear so.

So with extreme artistic license, I give you Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was doomed by the Gods for all eternity to push a rock up a mountain; upon reaching the top, the rock would roll down again leaving Sisyphus to start over.

Cyclists are doomed for all eternity to listen to “The Lecture”.

It’s a stretch. I know.

Chinese Water Torture

Listening to “The Lecture” repeatedly, forever doesn’t seem too bad compared to pushing a rock up a mountain. The “Chinese Water Torture”, or the “Cross to Bear” analogies don’t work, because they don’t last for eternity.

We all have our crosses to bear.

“The Lecture” will. So it’s actually worse – a fate worse than death.

It can get to any of us, if we let it. Obviously it gets to me. There’s no getting around it, it must be accepted and endured. Just nod and wait for the lecture to end. Don’t disagree or take issue – it’s a trap. What’s to disagree with?

With acceptance comes peace. I shall let it go.

4 Responses

  1. Haha, bang-on, and well written Jim. It’s funny how folks give the lecture as though they’re looking out for our (cyclists’) safety and well-being, as opposed to their self-interest and the perceived inconvenience a cyclist on the road presents to them.

    For those who aren’t cyclists, an apt analogy seems to be those who drive giant trucks and SUVs instead of smaller (and more efficient) cars “because they’re safer” in an accident, especially with another giant truck or SUV. Of course! The best way to make the road safer is to also take up driving a more dangerous vehicle! Now it’s your move, small-car driver, the onus is now on you to be safe!

    Maybe not the best analogy (haven’t had coffee yet), but I think there are parallels there in how safety seems to be everyone -else’s- responsibility.

  2. As soon as I hear the phrase, “Well if you ask me, …” I automatically cringe. 🙂

  3. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just
    wanted to say excellent blog!

  4. Sorry that your post disappeared. But thanks very much for the kind words Bethany – appreciated!

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