The blame game


Haven’t had a really good vent in a while. But this has been simmering for a long time, so here goes. The topic relates not just to cycling, but 21st Century life in general. Plenty are sure to disagree with me, no doubt vehemently in some cases. That’s your prerogative. Just as this is mine.

So, what is this controversial topic?

Taking responsibility for our own lives. And stopping the blaming culture that’s rapidly becoming inseparable from everyday life in Australia – including cycling – a culture I believe is, frankly, %#@ed.

Now I am no lawyer and I certainly don’t qualify for Mensa. But nevertheless it seems somewhat obvious to me that here on planet earth….shit happens. It always has happened. It always will happen. Sure, we do what we can to mitigate that shit wreaking havoc on our lives by making educated choices, being generally careful, looking out for our mates and doing other things like taking out insurance. But sometimes as we go about our lives the brutal reality is we’re just dealt shitty cards, masquerading as dumb luck.

Like many others I’ve had my share of accidents on the bike, both when commuting and racing, which have left me physically and financially damaged. In two cases in particular, I have little doubt I could have pursued someone to ‘sue their ass’ – one was a driver, the other was a fellow cyclist – but I never did. Why? Simply because I don’t buy into the whole ‘someone must pay for this and it won’t be me’ culture of financially-motivated responsibility delegation. Yes, my hip pocket hurt just as much as my body on both occasions. But my conscience was clear.

We’re not naïve little kids. No one holds a gun to our heads and makes us ride our bikes, be that to race, train, commute or even just ride to the shops. We know full well that shit happens to cyclists each and every day before we even roll out of the driveway. Sometimes seriously bad shit. Life is like that. Yet we choose to ride on regardless, as we should.

However – and this is the real raw nerve right here, folks – if something does unfortunately happen, why do more and more of us now think it’s okay to instantly look for someone else to blame? It’s out first instinct. Blame someone.

I’m not for one moment suggesting that the outcomes of many of these incidents aren’t terribly sad and unfortunate for those affected. Nor am I suggesting in situations where gross and/or repeated negligence and/or criminal behaviour has clearly occurred, the perpetrators should go unpunished. What I am very much suggesting is far too many situations seem to be pursued in the courts where opportunistic ‘victims’ – no doubt egged on by no-win-no-fee legal folks – are looking for handouts or to somehow capitalise upon their own misfortune.

Say the guy riding beside you hits a rock, or a manhole cover, or a crack in the road, or a piece of an old refrigerator (happened to a mate of mine on the F3 north of Sydney) or front wheel punctures and spears into you. You fall, destroy your $6,000+ bike and break your leg in five places. That sucks, sure. But was it really his fault?

Or how about the rider in front loses concentration or decides to clear his nose at an ill-advised moment, your wheels touch and you come down, breaking your collarbone and three ribs. Were they in the wrong? Hell yes, they were. But you can be pretty sure they didn’t do it on purpose. It was an accident, the kind of which happens all the time. Human beings – yes, even me and you – are rather fallible. Shit happens. And, remember, you knew full well that unexpected shit happens on bike rides long before ever being in that bunch, on that day, at that time.

What if they’d been riding erratically for quite a while that morning, overlapping wheels, late and hard on the brakes, moving left and right, an accident waiting to happen? Again take a long hard look in a mirror and take responsibility for yourself. Talk to them. Educate them. And if they still won’t listen simply leave the bunch. It’s called being a grown up.

Now, if you have insurance to cover your physical and financial discomfort, the pain is likely to be far more manageable. But if you don’t have some kind of income protection or TDP or private health insurance to cover the costs and time off work (or never checked the fine print to make sure you were covered), well, in my view you’re the negligent one, not the other guy. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since birth, you’ll well know cycling isn’t the safest sport in the world. Accidents happen out there every day. Maybe you should have taken up chess, because you’ve certainly been rolling the dice with your life, your mortgage repayments, your kids’ school fees and your finances in general on the bike.

Oh, and one final point. Am I the only one who cringes every time I hear one of those compensation lawyer ads on the radio, or see a billboard urging me to “Get what’s only fair”? FFS. Lest we forget, despite the background violin music and compassionate voiceovers, altruism is way down the list of motivations for many of these suited shit stirrers – they’re doing it to grow their business, make more money, get that promotion, earn that bonus and put that extension on their holiday house. They want us all to become rampant blamers because, despite making society a decidedly nastier place to live, that will line their pockets handsomely. And, sadly, more and more of us are making it possible for them to do precisely that.

Vent over. Exhale.

3 thoughts on “The blame game

  1. And, of course, New Zealand with a comprehensive accident insurance scheme nicely side steps a great deal of the ‘blame’ stuff… they say, essentially, “look after yourself, but if you’re genuinely roo*ed, then there is a basic safety net in place, so that you get better not worse…” (but no magic windfall).

    Which means, they can allow much more fun stuff, people can sign disclaimers, and everyone just gets on with life – with its inevitable risks.

    Would be good here…

    But, minor caveat… your examples are good ones of ‘some blame, but basically an accident’, so roll well with the post. I reckon there are other moments where actually forcing the ‘bad actor’ to take responsibility for their actions (when they were genuinely bad) is worthwhile. I know you made that point, but I believe there’s a legitimate threshold which seems a little lower than the one you anticipate!

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