Promotion of Cyclist Murder Causes Outrage During Doo Dah ParadeJuly 6, 2016 3:21 pm Walker Evans
Generally speaking, the participants in the annual Doo Dah parade are meant to err on the side of controversy with their politically incorrect floats and marching groups. In the past that policy has lent itself well to mocking bigger issues like gun rights, the oil industry, corporate interests or the federal government.
But many people are saying that one parade participant took it too far this year.
During Monday’s parade, a black SUV with fake license plates reading “BIK-H8R” was decorated with a smashed bicycle on the hood and a pair of fake legs representing an injured or killed cyclist attached to the top. Signs on the sides of the SUV read “I’ll share the road when you follow the rules” and the driver was also spotted getting out of his vehicle during the parade to duct tape over the bike sharrows that the city has installed on many Columbus streets to promote road sharing for cars and bikes alike.
While the messaging of the parade participant could be viewed as misunderstood satire, many did not perceive it in that light.
“Based on the way the driver was interacting with the crowd — and this is totally speculation — it doesn’t feel that it was just poorly executed satire,” said Yay Bikes! Executive Director Catherine Girves. “Satire is tough, and can be easy to get wrong, but you want to go over the top to make it clear that it’s satire. As the crowd booed the driver, instead of hamming it up, he actually got angry with people and flipped them off. It looks to me like this was an angry motorist on the road, and he thought this was a venue to express that.”
Currently, the parade participant’s identity is unknown, as Doo Dah does not require parade registration. Anyone who shows up is allowed to participate. Girves indicated that she expects the participant to remain anonymous since he has not come forward yet to address the issue, which has garnered national and international media attention well beyond the borders of Columbus.
“His complete absence from the conversation is probably due to the fact that he got a much different response than expected,” she stated.
That response has taken the form of hundreds of messages posted across social media in the past two days, generally in support of the rights of cyclists to use public roads for travel under the same laws as motorized vehicles.
“I was just in a meeting today with a group from the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department of Transportation, who just wrote an active cycling plan, and I told them that we have a nice focus group going on right now,” said Girves. “There’s a lot of backlash about this parade entry, but there’s also a lot of people who are still confused as to what’s legal and what’s not. There’s quite a bit of education that needs to happen.”
Yay Bikes!, the organization the Girves leads, promotes safe and active biking practices and works daily to educate both drivers and cyclists on how to share the road and commute together without issues. She said that this week’s news provides the group with a useful time to issue that messaging, but feels there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“I was out on the far-left bike lane on Fourth Street recently, but I was getting ready to turn right in Italian Village and moved all the way to the right lane. A car behind me honked, and I didn’t think much about it. Then I heard a siren, and it was a police officer who got on his loud speaker and told me the bike lane is there for a reason,” said Girves. “Columbus law enforcement has been fantastic, but there are still people who are confused and need education.”
Despite the negative response to this specific parade participant, organizers of Doo Dah said they won’t be changing policies about registration.
“Everyone’s humor is different and there are around ten different forms of humor,” explained organizer Deb Roberts. “The people who enter the parade are not professional comedians and give it their best shot. Sometimes their humor is on target, sometimes it’s a near miss, sometimes it’s a total dud. I am sorry to those who get offended by some of the humor, but that is what Doo Dah is.”
The organization describes the event online as promoting freedom of speech, but also states that the event is “symbolic of how Columbus is, you can be who you want to be and have a great time doing it, it’s all meant in jest and fun.”
“I feel that anyone who watches or participate comes away thinking about issues in a different light,” added Roberts. “And, that my friends, is the mission of Doo Dah. Let freedom ring!”
For more information on the Yay Bikes! response on this issue, visit www.yaybikes.com.
To view more photos from this year’s Doo Dah Parade, CLICK HERE.
[Update 7/7 9:15am — Additional information added to this post from the organizers of the Doo Dah Parade.]