The Best of Ask Bike Commuter Betty [From BA 42-400 Thru BA 43-500]
"Bike Commuter Betty" began as an advice column in the quarterly newsletter of a bike advocacy organization in the Midwest meant to encourage fledgling bike commuters by educating them on basic principles of vehicular cycling. The tone was that of a rough-edged Judith Martin and were written by a co-founder of The St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation.
The letters to which Betty responds are fictitious, but no less poignant.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
On my commute this morning I was waiting at a red light with a couple of other cyclists—and quite a long line of cars—when some hipster on a fixie blew past us and through the light. I turned to the motorist next to me and made a shrugging gesture, palms up, but one of the other cyclists waiting at the light shouted something unkind to the guy as he disappeared. Not too surprisingly, we caught up to him at the next light, where some further unfriendly conversation occurred.
Then on my way home, at a four-way stop in a residential neighborhood, I was about to start into the intersection when I swear it was the same hipster came flying across my path. This time I said, “Hey, there is a stop sign,” but there was no motorist nearby with whom to share my indignation. The guy grunted some kind of acknowledgment.
Anyway, Betty, my question is this: What exactly is the etiquette for calling out another cyclist on infractions of traffic laws? Seems like all I ever hear from my co-workers who know I bike to work is about the “scofflaw” cyclist. I don’t like to be placed in the position of apologizing for the behavior of strangers.
You may not quite realize it, but you are asking two separate, and Betty would suggest unrelated, questions: 1) What, if anything, to say to a cyclist who violates a traffic law in your presence? And 2) How to respond to people who try to hold you responsible for the behavior of others?
It might be useful to address the second question first. You need not apologize for the behavior of strangers. When a co-worker raises the “scofflaw” cyclist canard, you may politely point out that her observations are anecdotal and do not apply to you.
If she pursues the matter, you might roll out your own anecdotes of misbehavior by motorists, perhaps mentioning that in this or that instance someone was endangered or actually injured or killed, while in most of the examples she is citing involving cyclists someone was merely annoyed or inconvenienced.
The larger point being that you do not speak for the cyclist who blows a red light any more than she speaks for the motorist who rolls a stop sign or who fails to signal a turn or a lane change or who habitually drives five or ten miles over the posted limit. Unless she does.
Which leads us back to your first question.
Substitute the phrase “spandex clad Cat 6er” or “nondescript person on a bike” for the phrase “hipster on a fixie” and see whether it changes your thinking on the matter. Or ask yourself, do I feel a similar urge to call out every motorist who rolls a stop or fails to signal a turn, etc., and if not, why not?
Betty will assume that you, Maven, would not appreciate a stranger offering critiques of the decisions you make in traffic, except perhaps to prevent an imminent collision. “Oh, but,” you say, “I don't run red lights."
That may be, Maven. You might also signal turns and lane changes and even stop one hundred feet in advance and come to a full stop at every red octagon. And stay far to the right or within the striped bike lane even when your own better judgment might tell you to ride further to the left. And yield to every pedestrian who indicates an intention to cross at a corner.
But everyone out there—motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, kittens—has to be allowed to make independent judgments about how to interact safely with others. The etiquette for calling out “another cyclist” is, or should be, analogous to the etiquette for calling out any other road user, or for calling out someone who mismanages a cart in the aisles of a grocery store.
Yes, there are traffic laws and stop signs and red lights. But for the most part, these were put in place to regulate the flow of motor traffic, often at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians.
In general, Betty would suggest that you hold your peace. An exception, obviously, is where the behavior of another road user puts you or someone else in immediate danger. If, for example, a cyclist passes Betty slightly too close and without any warning, she will sometimes say mildly, “On my left,” just to get the point across.
In the first of the two incidents you are reporting here, it might have been appropriate to shout “car left” or “ped right,” if necessary to prevent a collision, but in the scenario as you say it actually played out, Betty would not even have offered the shrug to the nearby motorist—though she might have made such a gesture if it had been a motorist running the light, just to remind her neighbor that not all “scofflaws” are on bikes.
In the second scenario, Betty might have said something like, “After you,” if she had actually had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
An explanation of the difficulty you are experiencing might be implicit in your own words “no motorist nearby with whom to share my indignation.” Something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome may be at work here.
The dominant culture demands that you identify with the motorist, while cyclists and pedestrians are driven to the margins. In an effort to gain acceptance among motorists, you identify yourself as the “good cyclist,” and distance yourself from the “bad cyclist.”
But in truth, there are only considerate and inconsiderate road users, regardless of mode, and the threat to your safety is almost infinitely more likely to come from the inconsiderate motorist.
Finally, Betty is mindful of the possible perceived irony of her advising you not to tell others how to conduct themselves on the roads. The difference, though, is that you asked.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
So I’m biking up to this red light the other day, and there’s a right turn only lane, but I’m going straight through, so I move left into the through lane, just like the effective cycling people say, leaving the right lane open, and a pickup truck comes up next to me on the right, with no turn signal on, and of course I know exactly what he’s going to do, but when the light changes, instead of letting him by, I start through, intentionally not leaving him much room on the right, and he starts to cut around me, and so I shout (and Betty, I mean real, real loud) right into his open window “you’re in a right turn only lane,” and he says something indistinct and swerves in front of me, and so I repeat my informational message even more loudly, and he shouts back “get off the road,” which is, like, almost exactly what I want to hear, so then I just start adding in the entire sequenced list of expletives, which as I recall goes something like: “you’re in a right turn only lane, you st*p*d [author’s note: Bike Commuter Betty blushes to include the entire sequenced list],” which is of course to some extent redundant, and not too surprisingly he pulls over to the curb about a hundred feet in front of me, opens the door, and gets out, stepping in front of me and shouting “don’t you curse at me, I can beat the sh*t out of you,” the probable truth of which statement I acknowledge by swerving around him and continuing on my way.
Did I handle this situation correctly?
First, let me compliment you on your breathless writing style. And then let me say that the cycling community just cannot thank you enough for your tireless work to improve relations between motorists and cyclists.
Obviously, you were correct in moving left to the through lane (assuming you signaled the lane change and looked behind you to see that you were not moving into someone’s path). Obviously, the driver of the pickup truck was wrong to go straight through from a right turn only lane. It was probably poor judgment on your part to put yourself at physical risk by making it difficult for him to pass.
It is not necessarily wrong to inform a motorist (or a cyclist, or even a pedestrian) that he or she is in the wrong, but a certain amount of discretion should be employed as to the manner in which this information is conveyed. Cheerful politeness is generally to be recommended. If the motorist then recklessly or intentionally endangers you (as by swerving in front of you), of course you have a right to be angry, and to express your anger, though again, some discretion is advisable. He has the three-ton piece of metal.
That being said, I think you know perfectly well, Provocateur, that you escalated this situation on purpose.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
I see you and other transportational cyclists out there on the streets every day, with your messenger bags and your panniers, right in there among the cars— changing lanes, making left turns, asserting your right of way at intersections—and I gotta say, Betty, it just freakin’ terrifies me. I want to bike to work, I really do, and to the grocery, and just oh, everywhere, and I want to cut back on using my car for every stupid little thing, but Betty, if I went out on the streets in traffic on my bike, I just know I would be diving in and out of the parking lane and up onto sidewalks, or just getting creamed out there somewhere.
How do you guys do it?
First, for heaven’s sake, do not dive in and out among parked cars. Ride in a straight line, at least two or three feet out from the parking lane, or from the curb if there are no cars parked, so that motorists can see you and get some sense of where you are going. Be visible and be predictable, and generally you will be safe. Signal your lane changes and your turns, make head checks so that you know who is behind you and that they see you. It really just comes down to common sense and the self-confidence that derives from knowing what you are doing.
Also, you may not believe this, but riding on the sidewalk (apart from being illegal in commercial districts and a threat to pedestrians) is actually less safe than riding in the street—for pretty much the same reason: motorists will not be expecting to see you coming out of nowhere.
There are any number of group rides in different areas that are designed to get you comfortable riding on city streets, among at least light car traffic, in relaxed and non-threatening settings. Also, of course, there is Critical Mass, though Betty will not say that this is the best possible venue for learning road etiquette. Or, you may want to take a “Road 1” course from an instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
Like you, I am a daily bike commuter. I use the bicycle not just to get to work, but for everything—groceries, the library, the café; you name it. I am within an inch of being car-free. Over time, being out there every day, I have come to feel that I am a sort of representative of the cycling “community” to other users of the roads—motorists, of course, but also other cyclists, and even pedestrians. I signal my turns and lane changes, I yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and I roll stops only where there is no one else approaching the intersection.
I have a question that might be more a matter of etiquette than “rules of the road.” When approaching a red light with motorists already waiting, it has been my practice to filter to the front, usually on the right, and position myself in the right-hand portion of the through lane, so that I can get a jump when the light turns green and move to the right to let the first couple or three cars pass before reasserting my position in the traffic lane.
I started doing this because I was concerned about getting sandwiched between the stopped car ahead of me and the next car approaching from behind, and maybe getting crushed if the second driver wasn’t paying attention. But now I am thinking that I might be p*ssing off motorists who maybe see me as jumping the line, someone who thinks he is above the rules.
What is the correct way to handle this?
The vehicular cycling gurus, Forester and Allen and so on, will tell you that a cyclist must always behave exactly as a motorist would in any particular situation. And state law, which does treat bicycles as “vehicles,” forbids passing on the right, though there is a bit of ambiguity here having to do with “unobstructed pavement of sufficient width,” etc. The exception is intended to apply where there are two travel lanes in each direction.
So if you are going to filter to the front, you “should” do so by passing to the left of the stopped cars ahead of you, which may mean crossing the centerline. Passing on the right also exposes you to the risk of getting right hooked as you get to the front. Even if there is striped bike lane, the solid line on the left should become a broken line some distance before the intersection, allowing motorists who are going to turn right to merge across the lane.
In certain states, the bike lanes are striped right up to the intersection, and right turning motorists are forbidden to merge across (and cyclists are required to stay in the striped lane, rather than asserting the traffic lane or coming around the left side of a right turning car). The consequence has been several right hook fatalities.
To return to your question, Stephen, here is what Betty does: If there are only a few cars waiting for the light, Betty will get in line behind the stopped cars, positioning herself toward the right, ready to bail if a car approaching from the rear appears not to be stopping. If there are enough cars in line that it seems likely Betty will miss the light, she will cautiously filter forward, “usually,” as you say, on the right, keeping a watchful eye out for potential right hooks. She does not get in front of the front car.
Although Betty is not unconscious of the fact that some motorists see every cyclist as a “representative” of other cyclists, she does not allow this to dominate her thinking. And Betty recognizes that the only reason she is being held up at this intersection is that the cars ahead of her are bulky and unwieldy. One of the advantages of the bicycle is its agility in these situations. If a motorist wants to be p*ssed off, tell ‘em to get a bike.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
It is such a pain to actually stop, you know, on a bike, at stop signs and red lights. I mean, I have to gear down, I have to clip out, and then when I start up again I have to stomp on the pedals until I get up to a decent speed, blah, blah, blah. And it’s bad enough when there is a car behind me, because then the driver gets all impatient, especially if he is wanting to make a right turn on the red, or if there is cross traffic or an oncoming left turn, or whatever, because half the time they are expecting me to blow through anyway, and everyone gets all confused, trying to yield me their right of way. But when there is absolutely no one there... Betty, if a tree falls in a forest, you know what I mean? The way I see it, these traffic control devices were put there to regulate automobile traffic, and I should just be allowed to ignore them.
What do you think?
Dear Rolling Stop,
Where to begin. Everything you say, right up until “I should just be allowed,” is, of course, very literally true. It is also true, however, that cyclists are required by law to observe the same rules of the road as motorists, which include stopping at stop signs and red lights (except in Idaho, which has a “rolling stop” rule for bicycles).
It would not be appropriate for Betty to express her views on what the law “should” be, so let us talk for a moment about living within the law as it presently exists.
In most situations, when you are approaching a stop sign or a flashing red light and no one is competing with you for the right of way, it will not be entirely necessary to clip out and put a foot on the ground, though this is what the effective cycling people recommend—and frankly, where there is other traffic at the intersection, you will find that putting your foot on the ground is a very efficient way to communicate to the cross traffic or the oncoming left that you are declining to accept the offer to yield their right of way. Betty’s philosophy on this point is that everything works more smoothly if people behave in a predictable manner, and according to established rules.
So, except where a motorist (or another cyclist, or a pedestrian) is arriving at the same intersection simultaneously with you, or where there is a steady red light, you are stopping in only the most nominal sense: your wheels stop moving momentarily. The real issue is the steady red light. Is there ever any justification for “blowing through,” as you so eloquently put it?
Even the Idaho “rolling stop” law requires a cyclist to assess whether someone else who is approaching the intersection has right of way and whether the cyclist would create a dangerous situation by entering the intersection. So, short answer: no, there is never any justification for ignoring the signal entirely. If you are stuck at a light that requires an automobile to trigger the green, you might have an argument.
A subtler problem arises when the light regulates a t-intersection, and there is no approach from your right. While there is almost no risk in “blowing through,” the better part of discretion is to observe the light.
Betty is not an enthusiastic subscriber to the theory that every cyclist is an ambassador to the non-cycling world, and that you are somehow responsible for the conduct of other cyclists in observing or failing to observe the rules of the road, any more than every motorist is responsible for the behavior of other motorists who fail to signal turns or lane changes, fail to yield oncoming left turns, pass too close, cut cyclists off, etc. In Betty’s view, the only reason this idea persists is that cyclists are comparatively fewer in number and are viewed by motorists as some kind of anomaly.
But at the same time it is rarely applicable, “if a tree falls in the forest,” as you say. Perception is at least a part of reality. As we move closer, one hopes, to the day when motorists and cyclists share the roads as equals (and actually, as a part of the effort in that direction) we may expect to see more enforcement directed against cyclists who disregard traffic laws, at least when their doing so endangers other users of the roads, and we should welcome this, because it will tend to put everyone—cyclists and motorists—on an equal footing.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
Just yesterday I was right hooked by some idiot motorist on a cell phone. I was unable to stop, and went into her rear fender and down. My front wheel is toast, and there may be damage to the frame I do not know about yet. My right elbow and knee got torn up a little, and today I am finding that my left shoulder is sore. The motorist did stop, and I got her name, address, and phone number, but we did not make a police report, and now she does not want to give me the name of her insurance company.
I am feeling a little stupid now, and wondering what I should have done differently.
Almost Another Ghost Bike
Don’t feel stupid; this kind of thing happens to everyone. When you are in a crash, you go into a protective state of shock, you do not think clearly, and your injuries can seem less than they are. So you need to prepare in advance what to do “in case.”
Here is a checklist:
1. Stay calm.
2. Try to figure out if you need medical attention, and call an ambulance if necessary.
3. Get off the road.
4. Call the police every time. Don’t think about it: just call the police.
While waiting for the police to arrive:
5. Get the motorist’s name, address, phone number... and the name of his/her insurer. This person is supposed to be carrying proof of insurance. Ask to see it.
6. Also ask to see the vehicle registration. If the driver is not the owner of the car, find out what the relationship is.
7. Get the names, etc., of any other witnesses.
8. If there is a camera handy, take photos of the scene, your bike, your injuries, etc.
9. Do not discuss the crash with the motorist until the police arrive.
When the police arrive:
10. Get the responding police officer’s name and badge number.
11. Make sure a formal “accident” report is made.
12. In talking with the police:
a. be as thorough as possible as to what occurred.
b. do not say you were at fault, even if you think you were.
c. do not minimize your injuries or the damage to your bike.
13. Do not leave the scene until everyone else has left.
Some other stuff:
14. If the police will not respond (sometimes they do not respond to “non-injury accidents”), go to the district station yourself within the next day or two and file an “accident” report.
15. Take your bike to a reputable bike shop and have a mechanic there evaluate the damage. If the frame is compromised, the bike should be “totaled.”
16. The claim against the motorist’s insurance should also include your medical expenses, if any, the cost of your torn clothing, lost wages, etc.
17. Do not give any statement to the motorist’s insurer without first talking with a lawyer.
Betty is not saying that even if you do all these things, everything will be perfect. We have a long way to go, so in the meantime, please stay safe.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
Seems like almost every day I see another bike that has been locked up to some signpost for months on end, rusting away, bike vultures picking off the parts until there is nothing left but the frame and maybe one bent wheel. And sometimes it’s actually a pretty sweet bike—vintage lugged steel, downtube friction shifters, stamped chainring, the works. Makes me want to liberate the bike from this neglect. But Betty, [all caps] I do not want to be the schm*ck who steals a bike [several exclamation points]. So. Should I just cut the lock, take the bike, and leave a note saying, “I want to give this bike a better home,” with maybe some contact info, or should I give it maybe three or four months and then liberate it (after some of the damage has already been done), or should I simply do nothing and watch as the bike is slowly dismembered?
Not a Thief
Your use of the word “liberate” takes Betty back to the sixties. Ah, but that is perhaps a subject for another column. Betty feels your pain, Not.
The law in most states requires the finder of “lost” property to turn it in to some local authority, often the county clerk, who is then supposed to run an advertisement in a legal newspaper inviting the owner to come forward and claim it, and then after some interval, maybe three months, if the property is unclaimed it goes to the finder. There is usually a penalty for simply taking possession of “lost” property without going through this procedure. But of course the bike is not quite “lost,” and you are not in a position to turn it in anywhere, until you cut it loose. If instead you simply report the bike to the police as abandoned, it will likely be impounded and ultimately sold at an auction, which is possibly an acceptable outcome, but then you might not get the bike. Probably the first step, before cutting the lock, would be to tag the bike in some highly visible way, stating your intentions (and taking the risk that you are simply drawing the attention of bike thieves).
If you remove the bike and leave a note, there is some possibility that the owner will never see the note. Probably you would want to also post flyers at nearby coffeeshops, etc., maybe put something on craigslist. If the bike is abandoned in a residential area, you may want to knock on a few doors. And then turn it in.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
What is the deal with fixed gear bikes, already? Everybody talking about them, all the hipsters and messenger wannabes riding them—heck, even
Wal*Mart is selling them. But I am wondering, how is a fixie even practical? Okay, there is almost zero maintenance, but if you cannot shift to a lower gear to climb, and you have to keep pedaling, faster and faster, downhill, doesn’t this eventually tear up your knees? And how many of these amateurs can actually stop the bike by unloading the back wheel and backpedaling? I don’t want to knock someone else’s choice just because I don’t understand it, but Betty, what is it I am not getting here? I am thinking maybe if I just try it I will somehow immediately know why fixies are all the rage and I will become the next fixie convert evangelist. But I thought I should ask you first, before I hurt myself.
First, a disclosure: one of Betty’s bikes is a fixed gear, 42 by 17 with 170 mm cranks and a 27-inch wheel, which translates to about 67 gear inches. Related disclosure: this is a pretty long gear for climbing hills, and in fact Betty rarely uses the fixie, except for on fairly level commutes. On her geared road bike, Betty tends to favor combinations that yield gear inches in the thirties and forties. Spinning, in other words. And while she does occasionally see hipsters rocking fixies with these smaller gear ratios, 42 by 17 or even 16 seems typical.
In short, Betty acknowledges that she has to some extent come under the sway of the fixie mystique, though she is not exactly a “convert evangelist.” And she acknowledges that quite a number of people riding fixed gear bikes are, shall we say, in over their heads. If you want a dose of negativity on the fixed gear “subculture,” so called, read almost any randomly selected entry on bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com.
But as for why, what is the deal, why all the rage, Betty will let the late, lamented Sheldon “coasting is bad for you” Brown speak, at least in paraphrase. Check out sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html for the full rant. The fixed gear gives you an “almost mystical connection” to the bike, he says, making it feel more “like an extension of your body.” Having to stand to pedal uphill “makes you stronger,” while the higher cadence downhill “forces you to learn to pedal [smoothly].” And while coasting “breaks up your rhythm and allows your legs to stiffen up,” the fixed gear “keeps your legs moving,” etc., etc. Of course, some of this could be said to verge on hyperbole, but there is a great deal of truth in it.
Further disclosure: on her fixed gear bike, Betty does have a front brake (sometimes called a “drag brake”), which helps regulate pedaling speeds downhill, and takes some of the pressure off the knees when stopping. Sheldon Brown himself recommends this, incidentally. Something else Sheldon Brown said that might surprise you, but Betty will attest to, is this: the fixed gear gives you “a very direct feel for traction conditions on slippery surfaces,” making it “particularly suitable for riding in rainy or icy conditions." Betty could not have said it better.
P.S. Betty urges her readers not to patronize Wal*Mart.
Dear Bike Commuter Betty,
Word on the street is you have pulled up stakes, left Portland, and moved to some small town in the desert Southwest populated entirely by aging rednecks driving rusted pickup trucks with gunracks. Can this be true? Are you still using your bike to get around? How is that working out for you? What is the small town culture like? Is there any local bike/ped advocacy? How does that go down in a red state?
As my late friend would say, Mr. Feder, you sure ask a lot of questions. It was with considerable reluctance that Betty left Portland, having arrived there only five years earlier from a slowly dying post-industrial city in the lower Midwest. But life does throw the occasional challenge. Betty still does not own an automobile and has no intention of acquiring one. She does still “get around,” as you put it, by bicycle. It’s what they call a “lifestyle choice,” though Betty likes to imagine it goes deeper than that.
Betty misses many of the cultural amenities of Portland—the anarchist cafes and bookstores, the cooperative grocery stores, the local coffee roasters, the hipster bars. The readings down at Powell’s. There is a small liberal arts college somewhere around here, and there are a couple of local coffee roasters, a couple of local microbreweries, an organic cafe, an independent bookstore.
Not exactly the end of the earth, in other words. But closer, really, than Betty would prefer. On the other hand, the experience of—again as you put it—“pull[ing] up stakes” twice in just a few years has taught Betty something about impermanence. She has become a sojourner. But you asked about conditions on the ground here for cyclists and pedestrians and the political environment in which someone might try to improve these. And you used the phrase “aging rednecks,” Richard, which is of course unkind. Not to say inaccurate, but then, racial politics in Portland are rather dysfunctional, wouldn’t you say. To put things in some perspective. These are just confused people trying to live their lives.
A hundred odd years ago this town was just a few very wide streets surrounding the county courthouse. Wooden sidewalks and mud. That grid was paved in the twenties and thirties with no real thought to pedestrians, much less bicyclists. Until a few decades ago this would not have mattered much, because there was almost no one here.
Since then the local population has increased by several multiples, with people building three thousand square foot houses on two acre lots up in the pines. Closer in, apart from a small historic district, everything is dilapidated rentals and double wides. Just a few blocks from the center of town, at what until twenty years ago was a passenger rail station, now a strip mall, two highways intersect, and these have become the vectors for sprawl. If you can sprawl fewer than fifty thousand people.
Quite a number of downtown storefronts are vacant, and retail has moved out to chain stores at the edges. The local chamber of commerce pretty much owns city hall, and they are always talking about “growth,” as though we were not already depleting the groundwater, but the only growth around here seems to be in minimum wage service sector jobs. There actually is a small bike/ped advocacy nonprofit here, limping along mostly on safe routes grants until the MAP 21 money runs out, but they are still some distance from having a seat at the table when decisions are made to widen or resurface or realign a road.
Only a handful of people here ride bikes for transportation. The perception, which is not all that far wrong, is that apart from a few college students these are mostly homeless and/or guys whose driver licenses have been revoked for repeated DUIs. So there is not much political base for the advocate to work from.
Still, there are some recreational riders, both off-road and on, who are vaguely supportive, and a couple of sanctioned mountain bike races that bring in quite a bit of outside money. And in theory a town whose economy is built almost entirely on tourism ought to be walkable, no? So the situation may not be completely hopeless. Meanwhile, Betty simply gets on her bike and rides a few miles up some moderately steep hills and over some rather rough pavement to get to the organic grocer or the bike shop or the library. Sometimes she will ride somewhat to the left of a substandard bike lane on an arterial road, but she rarely has difficult interactions with motorists, possibly because there is not a “war” on here. Yet. Betty has noticed, however, that motorists in this particular locale seem to be oblivious to pedestrians simply trying to cross the street, even in a marked crosswalk at a signalized intersection. That has taken some getting used to, and actually Betty has received occasional abuse for asserting her right of way on foot.
Apart from all that, Richard, it seems to Betty one place is in many ways like another, at least within the borders of this weird country.
Fade to black,