The Laufmaschine

It all started with a German (of course), as all arrogant ideas of superiority do.

Baron Karl von Drais is credited with inventing the earliest form of bicycle, the Laufmaschine or, running machine, which consisted of a wooden frame with two wheels that was pushed with one’s feet. The Baron introduced his Laufmaschine to the public in the summer of 1817 in Mannheim. The German public greeted it with conceit and amour-propre (we can only assume).

Since that temperate day (we can only assume) in 1817, every bicyclist or cyclist (without exception) has carried on in the tire treads of the Baron, hogging every avenue, crosswalk, highway, thoroughfare, trail, and street; cobblestone or otherwise. Cyclists (without exception) have an air of presumption and selfishness that is usually reserved for royalty. The question remains: Why do cyclists feel so superior?

I have at least five (5) issues with cyclists. I have listed them here, for your consideration…

1. They act like a pedestrian.

Cyclists feel that they are not limited to any one mode of conveyance. Their movement is not limited to any particular road or path or waterway. They transition from road to sidewalk without hesitation, or an obligatory shoulder check. They turn left at a moment’s notice, stop on a dime, and cross on a red!

Do cyclists not realise that the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic is an international treaty, which means that it is a treaty that involves two or more nations? Do they not realise that this treaty was designed to increase road safety? Do they not realise that the sole purpose was to standardise uniform traffic rules? Do they also not realise that the convention was agreed upon at the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Conference on Road Traffic? Do they not realise that this treaty was signed in Vienna? Do they not realise that it was signed on November 8, 1968? Do they not realise that was the very day that Courtney Thorne-Smith (Melrose Place) was born in San Francisco, California? Do they not realise that that is an easy way of remembering the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic?

If the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic has taught us one thing (other than a means of remembering Courtney Thorne-Smith’s date of birth), it’s hand signals. In all countries, extending your left arm straight out in the direction of the turn indicates a left turn. Likewise (and yet contrariwise), extending the right arm straight out in the direction of the turn, parallel to the road indicates a right turn. And similarly (and yet dissimilarly), extending your right arm directly out to the right with the palm facing downward, and waving the hand downward indicates that you intend to stop. And in at least one country, a hand gesture in which the index finger and middle finger are raised and parted with the palm facing inward and the other fingers clenched is a nonverbal communication of quantity.

The difference between cyclists and pedestrians is this:  Pedestrians are not considered vehicles. Thus, are not considered traffic and thus are not regulated by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. That means that pedestrians can do whatever the hell they want. Cyclists do not share that freedom.

2. They act like a motorist.

Like a motor vehicle, a bicycle has a frame, drive train, gearing, steering, brakes, suspension, wheels, tires, and a seat. But that is where the similarity ends (and begins). According to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic a bicycle is considered a vehicle and since November 8, 1968 (Courtney Thorne-Smith) is regulated as such. And though it is human-powered, a bicycle can reach speeds in excess of 167 miles per hour (according to the Guinness Book of World Records).

* Note to Fred Rompelberg (the Dutch cyclist who has set several world records):  The posted speed limit is not a speed suggestion but an absolute maximum, even in ideal conditions (and even if you are hot, rich, Dutch and have a horse face).

Cyclists need to remember November 8, 1968 (Courtney Thorne-Smith), and the regulations standardised by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic:

i. Cyclists must obey the posted speed limit (much like motorists).

ii. Cyclists must wear a helmet (much like rock climbers).

iii. Cyclists must wear appropriate clothing (much like yoga enthusiasts).

iv. Cyclists must have front and rear lights on (much like a family waiting for a pizza delivery).

v. Cyclists must use cycle lanes (much like bus drivers).

vi. Cyclists must keep both hands on the bar (much like a drunk matron).

vii. Cyclists must keep both feet on the pedal (much like an armless bass player).

viii. Cyclists must never ride two abreast.

iix. Cyclists must never carry anything that will affect your balance (much like tight rope walkers).

ix. Cyclists must look around (much like people who like to look around).

x. Cyclists must take extra care when near humps (much like people with a lack of iodine in their diet).

* Please note the use of roman numerals.

3. They act like they own the road.

The last time I checked (September 4, 2010), the motorways belonged to the Ministry for Transport, not an unpleasant man wedged “in” canary yellow spandex bike shorts. I was rolling my suitcase down the road (there were chicken bones littering the sidewalk and I didn’t want my wheels getting “chickened”), minding my business when I rolled my case in front of a cyclist. He acted in what is best described as “pique”, an anger and annoyance unworthy of my Samsonite Cosmolite Spinner, the lightest and strongest Samsonite luggage, ever (

I said, “What? Do you own the road?” He and I both know that the Ministry for Transport owns that road, and every other road in Central London. He just needed to be reminded, as all cyclists do.

4. They abuse their bell.

More than once (twice) I have been wandering down a street (minding my business) when I heard a shrill and abrupt ding-ding from a bike bell. Nearly always (once), I jumped out of the way, stepped in a hobo’s collection plate (causing the money to fly several inches in the air and land in another hobo’s collection plate, thus causing a discrepancy about whose five pence was whose), and fell into the arms of a hobo. I smelled like green tea and cabbage for the rest of the day.

The worst part? The cyclist didn’t even stop to see if I was okay. That is the kind of disrespect and ignorance I have come to count on from cyclists (and the International Olympic Committee).

5. They act like a German.

Germans are known for their sense of superiority: the feeling that they are of greater worth than the rest of us, the feeling that they are of better quality, and of higher status than the general populace (I cannot think of a specific example).

So what if the Germans have the best food (spätzle, goulash, pretzels, sauerkraut, and sausage)? So what if Germany is home to the world’s premiere automakers, Mercedes Benz, Audi and Volkswagen? So what if Germany is the birthplace of a long list of royalty that includes Otto the Great, King of Germany (from 996-1002).

I’m not impressed.

So what if the Germans are at the forefront of inventiveness (just ask Baron Karl von Drais about his Laufmaschine, if he wasn’t dead)? So they invented the cathode ray tube oscilloscope? So they invented the vacuum? So they invented the printing press and the high pressure vapour lamp and x-rays and the geiger counter and the Black Forest Cake?

So what? It’s just a chocolate cake, whipped cream and cherries, for heaven’s sake.

Like Germans, cyclists (without exception) have an air of presumption and selfishness that is usually reserved for royalty. Cyclists need to be reminded that they are not German (unless they are German).

Cyclists also need to be reminded about the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic that came into effect on November 8, 1968 (Courtney Thorne-Smith), and that they shouldn’t go around with false ideas of superiority (because after all, a bicycle is just a frame, drive train, gearing, steering, brakes, suspension, wheels, tires, and a seat), and that riding a bicycle doesn’t give you a license to be such an eingebildet, unwissend arschloch.


6 thoughts on “The Laufmaschine

  1. holdyourhorse says:

    Naomi, Knowing Courtney Thorne-Smith’s birthday may not be “required”, but it is helpful, isn’t it? Especially if you’d like to send a card.

    Erin, I have been to Cambridge, but as per your request… I will never go again.

  2. Naomi Lazarus says:

    No, they don’t know those things. They _should_ know those things (although, honestly, knowing Courtney Thorne-Smith’s birthday may not _actually_ be required to adhere to road safety), but they don’t. And they don’t have to. Because there are no licenses to ride bikes, and no required training (apart from your dad letting go of the seat without telling you while you careen wildly down the street).

    The thing that gets me, however, is that, should there ever be a confrontation between a bicycle and a car, the bicycle is going to lose. Badly. Like, never be allowed to play in the league again, badly. And, while motorists are required to learn that they must take care around bicycles, bicyclists are not required to learn that they must take care around cars.

    So, I say, go ahead, bicyclists! Wear black clothing, no helmet, no lights and reflectors and ride down major thoroughfares at night. Be my guest. Because Darwin teaches us that this is really the best way to improve the species, on the whole. Perhaps the “stupid bicyclist” gene will eventually be bred out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s