There was hardly a crash. A slight jar shook the forward end of the Titanand sliding down her fore-topmast-stay and rattling on deck came a shower of small spars, sails, blocks, and wire rope. Then, in the darkness to starboard and port, two darker shapes shot by–the two halves of the ship she had cut through; and from one of these shapes, where still burned a binnacle light, was heard, high above the confused murmur of shouts and shrieks, a sailorly voice:

“May the curse of God light on you and your cheese-knife, you brass-bound murderers.”

This comes from Futility, a story written in 1898 where a liner running at full speed through fog runs down a merchant brig. The thing is, the owners of the Titan have told all other shipping to remain clear of its lanes, that it won’t stop and won’t be held accountable. And in this case the ship continues on, leaving those aboard the broken vessel to drown.

I’m getting an understanding that this was really an issue back in the early 1900s, that bigger, faster iron liners were routinely running down lessor shipping. It’s mentioned a lot of Captain’s Courageous, which is how I picked up the theme. I also remember it moved up into modern times in the book The Shipkiller.

The reason I’m posting this up here, rather than my book blog (look for a review of Futility in a few weeks) is from a cyclist’s point of view. The same situation and same results (on a more personal scale) are in play now. Cyclists, regardless of displayed lighting and efforts to remain out of the “sea lanes” are routinely run down. In Oburg, we have one of the highest death rates in the country for cyclists. Whenever this topic is raised, the local paper is swamped with responses of “they asked for it. They should stay on their sidewalks”.

You fucking chrome-bound murderers.

For those of you who don’t ride, you simply can’t comprehend the emotional detachment shown by drivers who are willing to run a Cadillac Escalade down a cyclist’s right side. I’m not asking you to post bridge watches but I am asking you to watch the road, not you children, your phone, or the bottom of your purse.

I’ve been rammed (in my car) by a Rav4 that traveled something like 200 feet without seeing my bright yellow beetle and three brake lights (and this on Edgewater Drive, a pedestrian-infested thoroughfare). When the woman got out, her phone rang in her pocket and she had to give it a sheepish, “No, I’m okay, but I’ll have to call you back” deal. I remember the kinetic energy that kicked my car forward a foot or two. I try not to imagine what it would do to a cyclist.

They buzz past me, their passage buffeting me. They push their noses through crosswalks I’m using. They loiter at stop lights (head down in the light of their apps) and fly through red left-turn lights with a cell cocked under their ears.

And when I say “they” I mean “you”. If you think you represent any value of western ethics, any Christian morals, anything decent or fair or honest, anything at all, then treat the road like the life-and-death situation it really is. Pass a cyclist like you would you own child. Give us three feet when you can, and don’t push a dangerous squeeker when you can’t. And for God’s sake, put down the cells and the tablets and the whatnot.

It was wrong for massive iron ships to crush smaller ones with impetuous disregard then. And it’s equally wrong for massive FUVs to do it now.