What’s the right thing to say?

Funeral visitation for John Zess will be at Rudy Garza Funeral Home. They are located at 1702 E. Harrison Avenue in Harlingen, TX 78550. Visitation will be on Saturday, September 13 from 12noon – 9pm. A private viewing for the family will be on Friday

Funeral visitation for John Zess will be at Rudy Garza Funeral Home. They are located at 1702 E. Harrison Avenue in Harlingen, TX 78550. Visitation will be on Saturday, September 13 from 12noon – 9pm. A private viewing for the family will be on Friday

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“You’re the first person I thought to call,” he said. (I won’t disclose his name)

I had some serious thought provoking conversations regarding the safety of cyclists in South Texas. A close friend of John Zess called me this morning. Clearly he was having a tough time dealing with the loss of his cycling buddy of many years. He admitted bursting out into a loud cry shortly before he called. He knew I had just recently experienced those exact same feelings not too long ago with Eddie Arguelles’ tragic cycling death.

“People don’t understand until it happens to them,” he said while his normally booming, strong voice cracked with emotion.

And he is so right. People really DON’T understand until it happens to them. Sadly, that means that many more will die on our streets before our community will get it. And then it will take something incredibly awful – I’m talking dreadfully, unspeakable awfulness – to happen to THEM in order for them to change their bad habits.

“What’s the right thing to say?” he asked me. “Do you tell people not to ride in the dark?”

We delved into a conversation that led us further into a confusing mess similar to the chicken and the egg. What do you address first? Who do you address first? What do you tell the other party in the meanwhile?

We have become so fixated on blame that we have become blind to the solution that is actually quite simple. But of course, us humans seem to complicate that solution. What is the solution?

Simple. Follow the law.

If we just didn’t drink all night long during the football game – over the limit of the law = All 50 states have now set .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) as the legal limit for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or commercial drivers, a BAC of .04% can result in a DUI conviction nationwide – then we wouldn’t have drunk drivers hitting cyclists or pedestrians or other cars. Simple, right? Put the drink down. And if you can’t put the drink down… give your keys to someone who didn’t drink (or smoke or snort or dope up)… AT ALL.

Simple, right?

Put the phone down. Simple, right?

Don’t speed. Simple, right?

Pay attention. Simple, right?

But let’s face it… life isn’t that simple. Even if cyclists do EVERYTHING possible to follow the law and EVERYTHING possible to be safe and visible, a black and white law that seems to simply state what should be legal and what should be illegal can be interpreted a completely different way by a good attorney or jury or a judge. And while we’re at it, let’s face it again… the life of the cyclist lost can never truly be given justice nor can a monetary value be given to their worth nor will their loss ever be felt as deeply as it should by that judge nor the person who took it away.

In fact, since you and I are being blunt with each other, let’s talk about the attitudes that we have towards cyclists on the road, cyclists who are hit and cyclists who are killed.

Now, let me be clear about this – THIS IS MY OPINION and it comes from what I have witnessed personally – I love my community and proud of how well it has overcome many of it’s growing pains because we really have grown quickly in a few number of years. The news headlines gets it’s ratings from talking about political leaders abusing power and going to jail but the political leaders that I’ve associated with have actually become a PART of the community and have kicked the ivory tower to the curb, joined its citizens on bike rides or runs and even marathons and have become active in pursuing infrastructure improvements for encouraging physical activity in our community. Our local police have protected my run group along the trail and have stopped alongside the road several times to render aid to a fellow cyclist who didn’t go over the tracks correctly or simply got a flat tire.

My friends, neighbors and friends I have yet to meet have become inspired with our community health kick and have cautiously joined the wave. They watch with wide eyes as people in big trucks or SUVs zoom by cyclists honking, cussing, throwing half empty beer bottles at them and even worse… intentionally swerving their way to knock them down. They see the local news anchors skim through the auto/ped fatality so that we can have time to discuss the NFL game this coming weekend or car that was abandoned in La Joya with the load of pot in the back seat. Everywhere we look, we see validation that the life of a cyclist seems less valuable than that of any other human.

It has become almost a daily ritual that someone tells me that I should not be riding my bike on the road.

“Roads are for cars not bikes.”
“Go ride your bike in a park where you’re supposed to be.”
“Why do you ride on 2nd street when there’s a side walk there?”
“You shouldn’t ride that early in the day. It’s too dark.”
“You shouldn’t ride at night. It’s too dark.”
“You shouldn’t ride in the day. It’s too hot.”
“You shouldn’t ride around Mission Trails. There are too many illegals crossing.”

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So back to our thought provoking conversations…

The following was sent via Facebook private message (I won’t disclose her name)

“Myssie, I saw all you did and you inspired me to get up and do something good, too. I want to become healthy. I’m tired of being fat and not being able to play with my kids. I want to live a long healthy life but what’s the point if I’m supposed to sit here and accept that most likely I’m going to get hit and killed by a drunk driver way before a heart attack has the time to get me?”

What am I supposed to say? What’s the right thing to say?

I want to encourage people to be healthy and have fun doing it and do good for others and continue to push the healthy wave to others…

But what if I encourage someone to go out there and their life is taken away?

What if mine is taken away?

Since the age of six, I’ve had a recurring nightmare about the way I die. Those who are very close to me have heard the story several times. Even my husband knows how serious I am about this dream and will never drive down Hobbs Drive because of it… but I ride by it on my 5am ride. It is by far the biggest fear I have.

I am not going to pretend I have the answer to it all. I’ve even questioned my own sudden desire to go back to running marathons and leaving cycling. I won’t lie and say I’m not scared. But I also cannot, after all I have learned about overcoming fear and challenges these last few years, be bullied by fear to abandon the sport of cycling… a sport that led me to emotional and physical healing. I cannot let go of it.

What’s the right thing to say?

What’s the right thing to do?

Why is this so complicated now? If that answer just popped up in your head right now… do you believe your own answer?

P.S. The Ghost Ride planned for John Zess on Saturday morning at 7:00a.m. has been postponed due to expected thunderstorms on Saturday morning. Please find more details on the rescheduling of the ride on John’s facebook page, Bicycle World’s FB page or Lone Star Pacesetter’s FB page.

More media links on the latest regarding John Zess: http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=1095044#.VBJtjvldV8F

We can not let fear deter us from doing the things we love. Cycling is a rather safe activity to partake here in the RGV as hundreds of cyclists were out and about yesterday and every day without incident. Unfortunately, we do have a *BIG* problem with drinking and driving in the area, and this is what is causing the majority, if not all, of the fatalities. I am a big believer that bicycles belong on the road. However, I am also realistic and practical when it comes to finding a solution to a complex problem. That is why we are advocating hard to have a dedicated, separated, region-wide bicycle trail. I am hopeful that this can happen in the next couple of years. ~ Ramon Hermida

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2 Responses to “What’s the right thing to say?”

  1. Nice write up. I personally have not experienced much of any rudeness from drivers while out cycling. Although I have experienced it while I lived up in the Dallas area in the 1990’s.

    Like

  2. raygarza710 Says:

    Nice write up. I really haven’t experienced much in the way of rude drivers while cycling here in the RGV area. On the other hand, Dallas was another thing. At least back in the 1990’s.

    Like

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