The 1980s gave us, in addition to The Smiths and some really good movies and TV shows, one of the most risible failures and one of the most-needed successes of American public policy.
The failure is the so-called War on Drugs. It did little, if anything, to reduce the demand for illicit substances. If anything, it made criminals, in this country and others, rich and allowed gangs to become the de facto governments of neighborhoods and even, arguably, of whole countries in Latin America and other parts of the world.
Related to it is the success: the campaign against drunk driving. The relation of the War on Drugs and the crusade against inebriated driving is the subject of a longer piece of writing that would be far outside the scope of even this blog! Suffice it to say that both policies were two sides of the coin of a kind of puritanism that swept over this country and continues to blanket us today.
Now, I am not condoning drunk driving or, for that matter, the excessive use of any substance, legal or otherwise. But, while the so-called War on Drugs did nothing to stop people from using or buying--or, for that matter, bring to account those who were responsible for its worst excesses--it can be said that while intoxicated driving hasn't been entirely eliminated, there is almost certainly less of it, and lives have been saved, as a result.
That said, I had a mixed reaction to a report documenting the rise of bike accidents in which the cyclist was under the influence of a drug.
Because the statute of limitations has expired, I can now say that while some of youthful euphoria came from cycling itself, let's just say that feeling was, ahem, enhanced. Now, being in middle age, I can tell young people "Do as I say, not as I did." I really and truly do not recommend riding under the influence of mind-altering substances--even if they come in pint bottles or cans, and even if Dr. Albert Hofmann did it and lived to be 102.
While I laud the intention of the report--if indeed its intention is to call attention to intoxicated cycling and, by implication, warn against it-- I worry that folks who are already anti-cyclist will further demonize us.
You know how that works: When any member of a minority group (and that's what we are in the US) commits a crime or does anything the rest of society doesn't approve--or is simply accused of such a thing--every member of that person's group is painted with the same broad brush.
Also, as the report states, many of those cyclists were high or impaired by drugs, including opiods (and, in some states, cannabis) their doctors prescribed. So were at least some drivers who struck and killed cyclists, including one I reported earlier this month. But that incident, or others like it, don't cause drivers to be tarred in the way a single incident becomes emblematic of scofflaw cyclists.
So, in brief, while I laud any attempt to bring awareness to the problem of impaired cycling, I hope it isn't used to further marginalize us.