March 10, 2015

Disagreeableness on the Central Valley Greenway

From Caelan Griffiths:

As an avid PriceTags follower, I’d like to relate a little Monday-morning-after-the-daylight-savings-time-change irritation I had today.

SnotI’m a daily cycle commuter from East Vancouver to Burnaby along the Central Valley Greenway. Today, with a nice cool light, the cherry blossoms were spectacular, and the very flat, usually quite calm, ride started nicely. This is a stretch of cycle-way that is not without it’s peeve-inspiring co-velocipedists, however.
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The short story is that I gave an earful to a guy who blew a (no better word to say this) snot-rocket in front of me.  Not within 10 feet lets estimate, but within earshot.
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I caught up to him at a stop sign and excused myself to say “please don’t do that…” To which the petulant reply was: “I thought you were far enough behind to not be in the way [spray]”. Perhaps road rage is what best describes my long-winded response – while riding – that included such verbal gems as “…it’s called germ theory…” and “…that’s how tuberculosis is spread, not that I am accusing you of having tuberculosis…” and finally, as I am ridiculously riddled with Canadian passive-aggressiveness, I wished him a “good day.” Then only to have to ignore him as we waited at the next light.
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The question I have for your cycling-savvy readers is: snot rockets – needless macho bravado or excusably necessary nose-clearing?

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  1. I’m guilty of that on occasion, especially when it’s chilly out. I never thought about health consequences. If someone is infectious, they’re going to be breathing & coughing anyway, so does nose blowing make a real difference? I can envision the path of infection when indoors and our hands are touching lots of things (including our face & mouth) but it seems a lot less clear when we’re outdoors.

    My first reaction: this guy may think nose blowing or spitting is gross (and most Westerners would agree) but I think it’s probably his hypochondria to think that it adds significant health consequences that aren’t present by merely breathing or coughing. Possibly because I think that most nose blows are unrelated to illness or germs. I’m not sure what my reaction would be if I was scolded like this, but I doubt I would be receptive.

    1. Would you do this while walking on the sidewalk or waiting near other people at a bus stop? It’s gross. When riding to work it’s hardly the Tour de France where you can’t stop briefly or slow to blow your nose.

      1. No, but I’m not waiting near other people. That’s the point. When people are by themselves, they do a lot of things (like pick their nose) which they wouldn’t do in company. So what? Why should anyone feel they should stop their bike to blow their nose when they’re riding to work (an activity where you’re typically by yourself)?

          1. The CVG is pretty big and the guy was far enough away that there was no risk of accidentally hitting anyone and possibly far enough away that he couldn’t tell someone was behind him.

            I think the health concern is probably minor (willing to be corrected) and if you think you’re reasonably alone then I don’t see the big deal. It happens, if you don’t see it you’ll never know about it and if you do see it then you’re still past it in an instant. So what’s behind the big upset?

  2. Not excusable, especially if he wasn’t embarrassed and didn’t apologize. Maybe buy some kleenex and hand over a package at the light next time you come across a snot rocket guy.

  3. I am not resolved one way or the other. On the one hand using a handkerchief is just more considerate, but I have been in the situation where a bug or hay fever makes me react instinctively. I would just ask that people consider depositing any respiratory fluids/solids use the grass/dirt to side of the paved area. If the dogs can use it as a bathroom, you can spit there.

  4. Two comments, and they apply to bikes as well as motor vehicles:

    1. Following too close, and
    2. There will be emissions.

  5. it’s part of my winter/spring allergy sinus clearing ritual. every morning i arrive at work with nice clear sinuses after 4 or 5 blasts out of my nose on my daily commute.

    of course, I never do with others in front/behind. if i weren’t to do it it ends running down my chinny chin chin.

  6. Ah such a nice break from all this transit vote stuff. I’m a honker especially when it’s cold out. I let go “snot rockets” when I run and when I ride. Mostly its just sinus dribble and very little snot. Sometimes I check but most times I don’t. I’ve never hit anybody but came close once. Sometimes I even get some of “it” on me but I don’t mind. A good honk is like clearing the mind!

  7. The ‘close a nostril and blow to the side’ is a recipe for spray and over-sharing of bodily fluids. The polite approach is to take one hand off the handlebars to facilitate ‘horking’ of a reasonably solid ‘loogie’ underneath the arm directly to the pavement. MAMILS that pass on the right… now there’s a pedal-powered faux pas!

  8. I blow snot rockets all the time when I’m out running so I have no problem with cyclists doing it – as long as they’re courteous about it. In similar fashion, I only spit or blow on grass or dirt off to the side of the path, and not when I’m around other people.

    None of this horking or blowing is required when you’re just walking around (and I don’t do it when I’m walking), so I can see how the social stigma is falsely extended to cyclists and runners.

  9. It isn’t just the overspray; it’s what you leave behind for walkers and cyclists alike. If you must do it, then put it on grass or dirt as commenter above notes. On concrete, it’s automatically being shared with your fellow path users even if they aren’t there at that moment. Even if it’s pouring, it’s going to be around long enough to be shared. Why we all walk with our heads down in this city.

    Would you do it in your home, your workplace, on public transit, or at city hall? No? Then why are you doing it on a sidewalk? Would you share it with your family, your colleagues, or your friends? No? Then why are you sharing it with your fellow cyclists? Bodily fluids = private. Period. (which could be a pun, come to think of it. Hey, that could be too). Consider that mild retribution for what I often have to step over when I’m walking, or skitter around when I’m riding.

    I have spent a lot of time riding a bike in fairly extreme conditions of both weather and physical output – training and racing, cyclocross, touring, commuting – and have done a fair bit of running as well. I have NEVER needed to unleash bodily fluids of any sort from any orifice in any manner that I do not normally use in regular life, especially not in the peloton where I was sometimes subjected to it by others.

    OK, maybe once if I got a face-full of oily road spray off a truck, I might have spit.

    Maybe we should bring back spittoons with an expanded mandate, and the people who fill them can have the job of cleaning them.

    I think part of the offensiveness of the act is that it implies that you and whatever mission you are on are so important that you have a right to impose your bodily fluids on others, and are excused from the normal standards of bodily fluid management. While the rest of us are just, you know, getting in your way.