High & mighty prawn in town (just)

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again when the months training done by cyclists on the local roads – free-wheeling through red robots, riding thirteen abreast, not bothering to buy lights, cycling along the freeways etc etc – come to fruition as they get some roads closed for a little while and then get to complain about the heat and the wind for the next six months.

But this year is slightly different, as the self-proclaimed God of cycling and n times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong is in town.
Cue desperate fawning from all and sundry in the cycling community (all of whom are on first name terms with Lance Armstrong)  and the new regulation that we must all worship Lance Armstrong because he did all that without getting caught using drugs – not like today’s cheats.

Lance Armstrong arrived last night in Cape Town and wasted no time is slagging off the local immigration officials because he didn’t have two blank pages in his passport (a fairly regular entry requirement for many countries around the world) and thus Home Affairs refused him entry.
Fair play, I would have thought, but Lance Armstrong wasn’t happy.
“Don’t you know who I am?” he might well have said. I don’t know, because I wasn’t there. But if I had have been there, I would have guessed that he was someone that didn’t know even the basics of traveling abroad.

However, this tweet:

@LanceArmstrong Well, made it in to SA. Not the friendliest welcome I’ve ever received but we’ve all seen immigration officers like that. #posterboymaterial

has divided the nation.

Yep – Lance Armstrong had a go at passport control because they were following rather basic guidelines. And that brought out his sickeningly sycophantic fans in a tirade of anti-Home Affairs abuse. This in turn caused a backlash of people who think Lance Armstrong is actually rather ordinary who pointed out that only a egotistic twat would turn up at passport control with a full passport and then blame someone else. I think I was one of them.

Aki Anastasiou risks the wrath of the cycling mafia with his suggestion that Lance Armstrong owes South Africans an apology. But I’m in full agreement. Whether he meant it or not, he’s come over as arrogant and hugely self-important – and damn rude about a guy who was just doing his job.

There’s a more serious side to this though. Lance Armstrong has 2,500,000 followers on twitter and much like Stephen Fry, can’t pretend he doesn’t recognise the power and significance of what he shares. When he blames someone else (specifically SA Immigration, in this case) for an error that he made, it reflects badly on this country. And until he apologises (to the same audience), no amount of cheesily-posed photos on Chapman’s Peak Drive are going to swing the damage that he has done to SA’s reputation amongst his sadly brain-washed devotees.

Cape Argus Gender Bending Drug Dealer Confusion

I read this article in our local newspaper, then I read it again. In fact, I have now read it seventeen times and I am still none the wiser.

Strip search turns out to be revealing

7 January 2010, 13:07
By Lavern De Vries

Mitchells Plain police will on Thursday charge one of the area’s most notorious drug suspects with fraud – after allegedly discovering during the course of a strip search that the man is actually a woman.
The suspect was arrested at his Kuils River home last Tuesday after police had received a tip-off that drugs might be delivered there. Police strip-searched the suspect, believing that he might have hidden drugs on his person.

Mitchells Plain police station head Director Jeremy Vearey said that it was during the strip search that the suspect was found to be a woman.

Wow. Incredible. Bizarre. But still makes sense, thus far.

We were forced to call Pollsmoor Prison to make arrangements for him to be held there until his bail application today. They then had to make arrangements to remand him in the hospital section, where he was held until his court appearance.

“Him”? “His”? “He”? “His”?
I thought you just said that this was a woman? I thought that was the story here?

Prison authorities had also considered holding him in the women’s section of the prison “for his own safety”, Vearey said.

This would actually make sense, now wouldn’t it? Because it is a woman!
Did you miss that? Because it was actually you that said it just a few lines earlier, Mr Vearey.

The suspect faces charges of the illegal possession of ammunition and the possession of stolen property.
He faces another charge of bribery after he allegedly offered R9 100 to one of the arresting officers in an attempt to persuade him not to register the case, according to Mitchells Plain police spokesman Rewayne Muller.

I think they mean “She faces”, obviously…

The fraud charge relates to him allegedly having two sets of identity documents – one as a woman and the other as a man. It is alleged that he has bought property, including at least two houses with the male identity document.

See how easy it is to confuse people with this whole What gender are you? lark?

A couple of estate agents were none the wiser – fair enough.
But when the police officer who discovered that you don’t have any bits still thinks you’re a bloke and the journalist that he calls with the story about how the man they just arrested turned out to be a woman also still thinks you’re a bloke, then that’s more than a gruff voice and a fake ID – that’s mind control!

All of which leads me to believe that she will get off scot-free when he appears in court later today.

Cyclists still at it

As yet another cyclist was knocked off his bike in Fish Hoek this weekend:

David Swingler was injured while cycling along Kommetjie Road in Fish Hoek late on Saturday morning.
Police spokesperson Bernadine Steyn said Swingler and a white Toyota Quantum minibus taxi had been travelling in the same direction on the dual-lane road. They tried to change lanes at the same time and Swingler was hit from behind by the taxi.
“The cyclist allegedly wanted to go into the right lane and the taxi into the left lane at the same time,” Steyn said.

Pedal Power Association vice-chair Elton Davids said although the recent spate of accidents involving cyclists had made many others reluctant to venture out, some were “not obeying the rules of the road”.
“They are not making it any easier for themselves,” he said.

And even the dangerously subjective Cape Argus finally admitted that not every cyclist is as pure as the driven snow:

Out on Ou Kaapse Weg, tempers frayed as motorists battled with cyclists for right of way on Saturday.
Motorists told Weekend Argus there had been scores of cyclists on Ou Kaapse Weg, and while most were cycling within the yellow lane, others either tailgated motorists or rode in front of cars.

Dave Bellairs, director of the cycle tour, said they did not condone cyclists disobeying the rules of the road, as they was for their own safety. But he pointed out that the majority of cyclists obeyed the rules of the road.

“Obeying the rules of the road is for the safety of the cyclist and the motorist and it shows mutual respect.”

A motorist said cyclists on Ou Kaapse Weg were riding three abreast. Another said a cyclist tailgated him on the scenic mountain drive.
Photographer Chad Chapman said even though most of the cyclists obeyed the rules, he saw some at the summit picking up speed and sweeping into the traffic lane, cycling in front of cars.

Meanwhile, in Milnerton:

Oh Lordie…
This morning, at half past dark, coming down the R27 to work, the fog/mist was so thick that in places visibility was down to 50m.
Bad.
At Woodbridge Island, scene of Saturday’s unfortunate death, it was especially heavy, and just past that, what do i see…?
Some **** on a bicycle, black shorts on, dark top, dark helmet, dark backpack, a rear light consisting of about 2 LEDs, and NO front light.
Now, one would have assumed that given the blanket coverage in all the Cape papers and other media, this two-wheeled tit would have ‘caught a wake up’.

Obviously not.

Live by the sword… die by the sword. But is this message finally beginning to get through their thick helmets?

EDIT: Please see Ordinary Life’s comment below with links to (allegedly – I haven’t read them yet) sensible posts about cyclists taking responsibility for their safety on the roads.

Another cyclist killed

With the Cape Argus Cycle Tour only 3 weeks away, another cyclist, Colin van Schalkwyk, died on Saturday after he was hit by a truck in Milnerton. Another terribly sad accident and another family man killed. News24 utilised a convenient if overly-dramatic soundbite for its report title: Cyclists fear for their lives.

In there, two telling comments from people “in the know”:

The City of Cape Town is planning a meeting about the issue with various roleplayers.
Pieter Cronjé, a spokesperson for the City of Cape Town, said it was important to realise that there was no quick fix or easy solution. “You can only address a problem properly if you truly understand what the causes are,” he said.

Absolutely right, Pieter. And, as if proving Cronjé’s point, this from the Cycle Tour Director, David Bellairs, who clearly doesn’t understand what the causes are:

It is true that in summer there are more cyclists on the road. You would expect that motorists were more tolerant towards them.

What an utterly ridiculous comment. More cyclists on the road means more red lights and stop signs ignored, more 6-wide pelotons to avoid and more wobbling, weaving idiots more concerned with their chat than their direction. You want tolerance – encourage common sense, encourage lawful cycling, educate them – don’t simply blame the motorists.
Yet, that’s the sort of “expert” with his blinkered beligerence that motorists are up against in this debate. Perhaps David should read the comments following the News24 story. Very… telling.

Meanwhile, the hugely vocal Cape Argus is once again (rightly) outraged by the death of another cyclist. That’s four deaths in the last three months. Of course, this pales into insignificance next to the number of pedestrians and drivers killed in the same period, but then the Argus doesn’t sponsor walking or motoring events, does it?

Not blameless

The flyers for last night’s Cape Argus newspaper were still clinging to the streetlight poles in an act of abject defiance against the gusty south-easter as I crawled my way in to work this morning, decrying (amongst other stuff) another accident involving a city cyclist and a motor vehicle.
Once again, in this rather unfair duel between 1500 kilograms of car and 150 kilograms of bloke on bike, the latter seems to have come off rather badly. No surprises there.
The Argus has had a bit of a bee in its bonnet (as newspapers are wont to do) regarding these sort of incidents, which – once again – is no surprise since it is the co-sponsor of South Africa’s largest cycling event each year. This also explains their hugely one-sided approach to the whole issue. Because, let’s face it – cyclists are a menace anywhere in the world, but they have taken it to a whole new dimension on the streets of the Mother City – and most especially on the roads of the Cape Peninsular. I hesitate to use the word “tossers”, but only because it would upset my mum. (Be warned, Goblin’s mum doesn’t read her blog.)

Don’t get me wrong: I recognise that the deaths or injuries of these people is terrible. But simply blaming the car drivers completely misses the point. Cyclists are anything but blameless. No licences, no registration, no lights, no insurance and – in the vast majority of cases – absolutely no regard for the rules of the road or other road users. 
I almost killed one in Kalk Bay the other day when he decided to go straight on from the left hand turn lane (I was using said lane for the evidently unprecedented purpose of turning left).
Whose fault was that? But who would have got the blame? Ooh – I wonder.

But the Argus is completely blinkered, even giving us some unconnected background information on injured cyclist, Steve Ryan and his wife, Lara:

The couple are from Johannesburg, and moved to Cape Town in April. Ryan has participated in several cycle tours in Johannesburg and completed five Comrades Marathons.

So what? In fact, I have found that those individuals who have attained such dizzying heights of athletic achievement are often the worst offenders. Perhaps they think of themselves as superhuman or invincible. Or just too “special” to bother with that red traffic light. 
Not, of course, that I am suggesting Mr Ryan was in any way to blame for the accident he was involved in. I’m sure he was riding safely, respecting other road users, obeying traffic signals etc etc like all good cyclists do.

I’m not advocating the widespread slaughter of anyone on a bike, tempting as that may be. All I’m asking is for due consideration to be given to the possibility that in the event of an accident, the individual previously on two wheels may actually be at fault once (or twice) in a while. Given the standard of many of the cyclists on the road, it’s not that hard to imagine.