Ride In and Ride Home 6/23: An awfully long digression on sheep dogs

Rode in, rode home. Worked in between. Not too bad for a Monday, but I didn't feel so great on the way home. A little over-caffeinated, a little dehydrated- like chocolate-covered espresso beans?- and a little not covered in melted chocolate, and that's all for the best because the chocolate would have been hot chocolate and that's for sundaes, not Mondays.

I find that the pedestrians who seem to be the most averse to being near bicycles are also the ones who seem to be the most oblivious to the fact that they're standing in bike lanes. Funny how that works out. The only reasonable suggestion to improve this fact of life would be to remove a travel lane to create a buffer zone between bike lanes and sidewalks. Maybe patrol it with sheep dogs, but like friendly ones, so they can corral any strays back to the sidewalk and/or fend off any wayward bicyclists who encroach into the buffer zone. We'll deputize the sheep dogs and give them vests. How many sheep dogs do you think we'd need for each block? Could we train other dogs do fulfill this purpose? Is this just a big government make-work project for unemployed dogs? Anyway, this is why I'm not in charge of anything. Not just related to transportation, but anything. My suggestions almost always boil down to 'putting animals in costume will solve this problem.' And in reality, putting animals in costume can only really solve about half of society's problems and even though an army of vested sheep dogs would be capable of patrolling buffered space between bike lanes and sidewalks thereby reducing conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians, the infeasibility of procuring a sufficient number of varied sizes of dog vests in the current budgetary climate will doom this program from the outset. Without vests, who would ever take these roaming sheep dogs seriously? I'd certainly be like 'what's the deal with all of these sheep dogs? Are they here to provide some sort of useful traffic control function or are they just out here being dogs? Certainly it can't be the former since they lack vests and no one would ever employ sheep dogs in any kind of official capacity without uniforming them in vests, so I guess they're just out here running around, being dogs or whatever.' And that'd probably raise the hackles of the Humane Society, who I'm sure would be ok with working dogs working, but probably wouldn't be ok with working dogs just running around our city streets not seeming to provide any useful civic function. I don't know where PETA would come down on this because while it might be ethical to employ dogs, it might not be ethical to employ them without giving them some kind of official distinction, such as a vest (or at least, a name tag and/or sassy bandanna) and I don't even know what the wage implications would be and you might have the SEIU upset if the sheep dogs aren't paid a living wage in conformity with local laws and standards or if they're not granted the right to unionize and collectively bargain raises and/or bones. And if the sheep dogs decide to strike, what are you going to replace them with? Do they even make sheep cats? I've certainly never of them. You could probably just leave the buffer space between the bike lanes and the sidewalks unguarded or maybe post a sign that says 'Hey, even though there are no vested dogs here (labor action), you oughtn't step in this space or ride in this space because the space is here to prevent conflicts between people on bikes and people on foot, not to invite it' but if such a sign could work, you wouldn't even need the sheep dogs in the first place. You should just use signs and signs don't need vests or ethical treatment or fall under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. Signs are just displays of information and we've got them everywhere already and they're approximately as effective as you think they might be. A sign, unlike a sheep dog, can't bark at you. It can't nip at your cuff. It doesn't come when called. It's passive. It's inert. You wouldn't name a sign Rusty and rub its belly when it does an especially good job demarcating which space is for people walking and which space is for people on bikes. It just sits there. And not in a good way, like an obedient sheep dog, ready to spring into action. It's idle. It's as effectual as people let it be. It works to the extent that people consent to it working. It informs, but it can't compel. And it certainly can't wear a vest. Maybe if signs wore vests... If only signs wore vests...

Didn't feel so hot on the ride home. I went slowly. I made it. I rode down Wisconsin and M and Pennsylvania through the newly redesigned Washington Circle, which seems a lot like the old Washington Circle. They didn't make it any more circular or anything. Drivers remain as bad at driving through traffic circles as they've always been, so there's that. I don't particularly care for biking around that traffic circle, but so long as you know that some drivers will come from every direction, heedlessly barreling through and across lanes and cutting off other drivers and bicyclists and pedestrians and everyone else, then you're totally fine. Expect the expected.


  1. I just have to give this post a slow clap. So, here it is: -slow clap-

  2. In some cultures, "slow clap" means "I won't even deign to respond to such crap with words". Non-verbal condemnation. Just sayin'.

    This post, on the other hand, totally rocks. Full applause... crowd goes wild... etc. I'm sharing it everywhere.