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Article #14
Dropped by a Cop

- SlingShot

I have a real problem with authority, and this guy, this cop, had me up against the wall. No amount of excuses on my part was going to make things better. He had a job to do and he was doing it.

I was giving my best effort to keep up, but this guy was on his game and unbeatable. My visor did little to shield against the hazy sun. Little flares of light reflected off my glasses as I scanned the pulsating horizon for more riders coming down the hill. It was endless. One then another, then a group, then another.

For a time water was being delivered to us, but that had ended. What water I had left was hotter than I like my tea. One of the last things I remember was Danny (The Don) Izon drifting by in his car. I was hunched over trying to stretch my back in order to get just enough relief to keep this guy from dropping me. I heard Dan say, "Bob, you've had enough. You've got to quit. Go get out of the sun."

I looked up into a face I'd never seen on Dan before. It was his professional face. A face steeled from years of having to give good people bad news. Dan's a doctor, an oncologist, and this was the first time I'd seen that hard edge of necessity projecting from his eyes. "Really Bob, I'm serious. This is dangerous. You've got to let it go and get out of the sun."

This was the third time Dan had passed by and warned me. Each time he was a little more insistent until, in this last icy demand, I could hear the echoes of all the times he had to tell someone, "Go home, live your life and get your things in order."

I shuddered despite the heat but looked back up the road and saw another eight year old, followed by their parents, just finishing up the Country Roads Tour. I couldn't leave. This was deadly serious business.

I was sure the parents didn't fully understand the danger: the cars coming from all angles, the inability of the OCBC to totally control road traffic, the mounting frustration of the motorists around them who'd been held up for miles behind the meandering bikes. For the parents it was just a nice day in the country, part of a "Big" event with every protection. If I lost my concentration for just a moment, who knows what could happen.

I threw another body block into oncoming traffic to stop a car whose driver was only half-aware that a wobbling kid on a little knobby tired mountain bike was just off their bumper and about to cross in front of them.

But my actions were pitiful compared to my nemesis the traffic cop's ever increasing command of the situation. I was in my barest survival mode trying not to get dropped, trying not to leave the impression that OCBC'ers are just a bunch of worthless poseurs. I bike for miles and miles and miles. I go up hill after hill after mountain. I should be able to keep pace with a doughnut sloshing traffic cop! However often enough I've been surrounded by superior cyclists on a ride and know for a certainty when greater skill and ability is about to do me in. This was one of those times. Not to mention this cop didn't look so doughnut laden.

We were at the entrance to the Community Campus directing traffic. It was the end of the Country Roads Tour, and Officer Paul Besser was going through his paces like a skilled cyclist moves through the gears, applies just the perfect amount of spin, responds with just the right quickness, stands at just the right moment. Besser was taking care of business, and I was fast becoming a spectator.

He was controlling cars coming from four directions while bikes and foot traffic, peppered throughout, came from directions all their own. He kept a strong steady pace of continuous hand and voice signals: a motion here, a slight wave there, a step back with a turn slightly left and a hand thrown up to stop cars while calling, "Bikes come on through," as his other hand held the cars behind him at bay.  Constantly scanning the area around, he quickly memorized dozens of positions and kept inventory of developing situations that, from necessity, would continually slip out of his view as he tended to the most immediate threats to safety. It was traffic triage and potentially just as deadly. I gaped in awe.

He knew just the moment to bring the line of cars on his left up to speed, knew the exact time and gesture to back off the line from the right so they'd be stopped when the approaching pedestrians arrived to walk his sheltered path to safety. His flow had become as smooth as Lance's stride up the Pyrenees, and this went on for hours without a break. It had gone on for hours before I got there, because I only took over in the afternoon from (Totally Tubular) Louie who had helped Officer Besser throughout the morning. Still I couldn't hope to keep up with this cop's focus and pace. It only made matters worse to realize that he was handling a job that took four of us to do year before, and not nearly as well.

Officer Besser showed incredible sensitivity toward the bicyclists, so it's not surprising when I stopped to get his card that he talked about how he also liked to bike and hoped someday to establish a bicycle patrol. I also shouldn't have been surprised that his card stated Accident Investigation. No wonder he was so good at keeping cars back and so careful about giving the bicyclists plenty of room. This guy is accustomed to figuring out a car's speed just by looking at the thickness and length of the rubber laid down in the skid, while carefully observing the life and death seriousness of the aftermath. I'm sure his head is full of chilling pictures of bent metal, shattered glass and broken bodies.

So I don't care if I do get profoundly dropped once again and need a doctor's advice; let's make sure to do whatever it takes to get this level of professional help for all future Country Roads Tours. Also somebody ought to go out of their way and thank Officer Besser and the Town of Walkill Police Department. Very, very impressive!



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this page last updated:
11/28/2012 11:40:41 AM

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