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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, May 29, 2006

When is correcting someone not a good thing?

Not a trick question. In part, the answer is when correcting them isn't necessary. And in part, the answer is when your intention is not to show them where they're wrong but to try to make them look bad.

I was on Hollywood Beach Sunday morning, strolling the Broadwalk on the way to breakfast with my wife and mother-in-law, when I absentmindedly strayed into the bike path, that narrow lane adjacent to the sand. My M.I.L. and I walked in the bike path for a few seconds until we looked up, saw two cyclists coming toward us at a distance, realized we were on their side of the white stripe, and stepped out of the lane and back onto the pedestrian side.

Mind you, when we spotted them and got out of their way, there was no imminent collision. They were a good 12 yards away, when we cleared their path. We kept walking and talking. No big deal, right?

Well, when the lead cyclist in that duo passed us a few seconds later he snarkily blurted out "The bike lane's for bicycles, folks!"

No way! The bike lane is for bikes? That's a relief, 'cause I was starting to wonder what that helmet you were wearing was for, not to mention that Lance Armstrong shirt, and those elastic, knee-length grape smugglers. Oh, and you were on a bike! I get it now.

Pinhead. See, that's when a correction is out of order. That was unnecessary. It served no purpose other than to give this guy a means to let some of his snark flow. The fact that we got out of the lane in plenty of time should have been more than enough of a clue to him that we realized we had been in the wrong place.

Correct someone when they obviously don't know what they did wrong. Correct 'em when they know they were wrong, but just don't seem to care. Correct 'em when they were wrong, because they were sloppy, or inattentive or took shortcuts. Correct 'em when their bad behavior had the potential to hurt others as well as themselves.

But don't correct someone just so you have the chance to say your version of "So there!"

Anyway, this guy's scolding would have carried more weight if he had also scolded the dozen cyclists we counted during breakfast riding their bikes on the side of the Broad Walk reserved for walking traffic, especially considering some of the walkers had to swiftly side step those errant bikes to keep from getting run down.

And BTW guys - and by guys I mean men, if you're not in the Tour de France and you're not riding that bike more than a few miles, please quit wearing those compression shorts. Leave the tighties to the pros.


  • James,

    You give 4 examples of when it's okay to correct people and any of them could have applied to you as far as the bicyclist knew. He didn't know you knew what you did was wrong. He didn't know that you cared. He didn't know whether you were being inattentive. And you being there certainly posed a danger to yourself and others. To him, you were a guy who was walking in the bike path.

    The bicyclist's reminder may have sounded snarky to you but reading what he said comes across as a reminder and not much else. It sounds as if he were giving some folks who had strayed into the bike lane a little reminder.

    To add just a little to this, aren't there signs prominently posted along the walk that states that the bicycle lane is for bicycles? It's been a while since I've been over there, but there may even be a fine associated with it if I recall correctly.

    Finally, I don't know how proficient a bike rider this guy was and, more importantly, I don't know how long or how far you ride, but I can tell you from personal experience that the outfits that you sarcastically describe serve a purpose to anyone who takes their biking half seriously. They're not a fashion statement as you seem to think. Straying off your message to goof on this guy's sportswear selection is silly.

    By Anonymous Rick, at 12:54 PM  

  • Sorry Rick. Can't agree with you on what the cyclist knew or didn't know about me. The point is I got out of his way before he got anywhere near me. There was no need to "remind" me to stay off the bike path unless I'd remained on the path and he had to slow down because of me or go around me. He had to do neither. You weren't there. Tone and 'tude suggest he couldn't leave without taking a parting shot.

    As for the tighties, take a joke. If you couldn't tell, most of what you read on this blog is my opinion couched in my own "brand" of humor. You don't have to laugh. But don't be uptight about it. Ha! up "tight!" Listen Rick, wear as tight a trousers made out of whatever flexible fabric you want. It's your bod and your style. I couldn't care less. But just like you feel free to comment on the direction of my message, I feel as free to comment on dudes in tight spandex shorts.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:49 PM  

  • No, James, I wasn't there. I relied on your description of the event and formulated an opinion.

    Usually I'm pretty good at detecting humor, but, man, your two references in this one post to guys wearing bike shorts was way under the radar.

    By Anonymous Rick, at 7:12 PM  

  • Sounds like the biker desperately needed to feel important. Seems to me a bike ride on a boardwalk would be a casual, leisurely affair and not serious circuit training. You moved, and it wasn't like you wandered out on the turf of a football game Mr McGoo style. I don't pretend to know lots about "serious biking" and the need for the tight clothing, but there are kids around and none of them need the nightmares.

    By Anonymous ChrisA, at 7:41 PM  

  • Sorry again that you didn't get the joke Rick, but to be fair, the biker shorts joke went under your radar. Can you say with a certainty that no one else did or will get the joke? And is it really that big a deal? I don't think me poking fun is gonna lower the stock prices of the nation's biker short manufacturers. In all fairness, I can't say that anyone other than me will get the joke. What can I tell you? I just happen to think that any dude who isn't a super serious cyclist or a pro wearing those things is hilarious. That's just me. And this guy may well have been a super serious cyclist. But since he was snotty to me, I took a shot at those strangulation shorts. You've never poked fun at someone you felt was unnecessarily snarky to you?

    I still say the primary point of my original post was that I had already moved out of this guy's way. If I hadn't moved out of his way, forcing him to change his course, then he would have had a great reason to "remind" me that I had been standing on a bike path. But since I moved on my own before we were anywhere near each other and without any prompting by anyone or anything, including those randomly placed signs - and said as much in my first posting - then the logical conclusion should have been "Hmmm, those people up there moved out of the way. They must've realized they were in the bike lane."

    You're a reasonable guy Rick. I've read your postings. I tend to find them on point, as the kids like to say. But there is no way you can tell me with a straight face that you wouldn't get a little annoyed if someone scolded you for something AFTER you had figured it out and corrected it on your own. Again, how did this guy know I had figured it out? I had already moved out of his way!!! It begs the question: What was the point?

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 8:07 PM  

  • James,

    I have a confession to make. That was me on that bike. I had just almost run someone else over about a block ahead of you and was tired of dealing with people in the lane.

    Not really.....just kidding. Thought I would bring some levity to this back and forth.

    Let me answer your last question: What was the point?

    The point may have been that the bicyclist thought you did not know about the bike path regulations because you were there when he approached you. You gave him the right of way but he may have thought you would move right back there after he passed.

    It's just my attempt to be objective in this situation and try to figure out what may have been going through this guy's mind. I guess we'll never know, will we?


    By Anonymous Rick, at 10:10 PM  

  • I HATE that kind of 'shared' pathway.

    You invariably get pedestrians in the cycle lane & cyclists shooting along the pedestrian lane. The only thing worse is those silly bike lanes they have over here (UK) along the edges of city roads where bone-headed motorists think it's neat to pull in & park. Then you (the cyclist) have to go out into the traffic to go round them. & the police do nothing about it!

    Mind you, the worst thing on the shared paths are parents of small children who allow them to wander off apparently miles ahead. What does a 2 year-old know of bike lanes (what has their parents taught tehm?) & HOW do you avoid running them down when they may just about run anywhere at the sight of a bike. Hold onto yr toddlers, folks, & teach yr children the meaning of the pretty stick pictures on the pathways!

    By Anonymous Bronchitikat, at 3:22 AM  

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