The British press is all atwitter today about what’s likely the top story in cycling news. Remember back in July at the G8 summit in Scotland when President Bush, struggling to ride a bike, wave, and speak at the same time, ended up crashing into and injuring a police officer in full riot gear?
Details of the incident were sketchy until now, as Bush and the ever-faithful Scott McClellan attempted to skirt embarrassment, but the official police report of the incident has just been released and, among other things, it describes Bush, amusingly, as a “falling object.” What a lovely mental image.
As the president passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting “thanks, you guys, for coming.”
As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs. [The officer] fell to the ground, striking his head.
The president continued along the ground for approximately five meters, causing himself a number of abrasions.
This story’s got just about everything a progressive cyclist could want: heads of state crashing to the ground, sweet, sweet schadenfreude, a riot-gear-clad protest-quashing cop being felled by a human-powered vehicle, and a touch of public embarrassment.
But it also shows yet again how much the law doesn’t seem to apply to Bush.
As the Scotsman newspaper commented:
In Scotland, an accident such as the one at Gleneagles could have led to police action. Earlier this year, Strathclyde Police issued three fixed penalty notices to errant cyclists as part of a crackdown on rogue riders. Legal experts also suggested lesser mortals could have ended up with a fixed penalty fine, prosecution, or at least a good ticking-off from officers.
Failing prosecution, let us revel in persecution. The mocking headlines were some of the best parts of the press attention paid so far:
The Telegraph: “George Bush ‘fell off bike waving to police'”
The Independent: “Police reveal how Bush can’t wave and pedal at same time”
The Scotsman: “U.S. leader crashed by trying to ‘pedal, wave and speak at same time'”
Independent Online South Africa: “Lack of co-ordination to blame for accident”
The Star (also of South Africa): “Police report shows pedaling and waving at same time not easy for Bush”
Good times, good times.
Seriously though, persecution of actual cyclists by the law and law-enforcement officers continues apace in the U.S. as well. A good example is what’s been happening in NYC. A state judge in NY recently ruled that Critical Mass rides could keep on keepin’ on sans parade permit in the city (hooray!) as angry cops have been using unnecessarily aggressive tactics to pursue and arrest cyclists, mostly for the infraction of parading without a permit. But now, since the ol’ “parading without a permit” charge won’t stick anymore, police are getting increasingly creative in their attempts, basically trying to argue that Critical Mass is inherently unsafe.
But in a tasty bit of dramatic irony, a few of the police riding motorcycles amid the throng of cyclists in last month’s ride actually collided with each other while attempting to impose order, spread the gospel of safety at the ride, and, oh yeah, arrest people and generally quash the rolling party that is Critical Mass.
At last month’s ride, two police officers on lightweight motorcycles were injured as they maneuvered into position to cut off the bicycle riders on Third Avenue.
“One of the motorcycles made an abrupt 90-degree turn, and the one behind just T-boned him — hit him perpendicularly,” said Luke Son, a bicycle rider who said he saw the crash happening from a few feet away. “A really violent collision. The officer in front went flying.”
The same cyclist commented to another paper that “it’s ironic that the police’s stated reason for being involved is public safety, and yet it’s their continued aggression that’s been causing problems for the city and for themselves … no riders have been hospitalized.'”
There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.