We Have an Image Problem

Every so often an article or letter appears in the local media about cycling in the area, and the resulting comments can get spirited on both sides, and like last week, they can get downright ugly.

I’m no fan of the anonymous comments that appear with just about any article, about anything – there are some real losers out there who have nothing better to do than post hurtful comments.  But what saddens me is that the hatred, and I’m accurately using that word, towards cyclists is based, not on perceptions, but on at least a grain of truth.

Too may cyclists, whether it be roadies, commuters, or recreationalists; are riding rudely, dangerously, or in an illegal manner.  That’s hurting cycling in general, because it provides leverage to the hateful comments referred to above.

It’s really easy to point a finger back at a driver, and say “you’re even worse”, but that doesn’t solve anything, and it doesn’t address the problem.  I drive, and I get impatient with other drivers, I see people doing stupid things behind the wheel, and I’ve done stupid things behind the wheel.  It happens.

But I do far less stupid things on my bike.  Part of that is because I recognize my vulnerability in a car-dominated environment; part of it is because I have less distractions; and part of it is because I totally love riding and don’t want to do anything to mess it up.  If anything, I want other people to experience the same joy I am.

There is merit to claiming one’s space on the road.  It’s a safety thing, and it’s also a rights thing.  I’m not going to bail into a drainage culvert just because I have a car coming up behind me, but I’m also not going to take the middle of the lane if I have a smooth berm.  I do my best to avoid high traffic roads, and if there’s a way for me to “get out of the way” without putting me at a disadvantage, I do.

None of this makes me a perfect cyclist, especially to those fools who think bikes belong on the sidewalk; but it does give me the moral high ground to demand my spot on the road.  If the peleton crowd is going to refuse to give up a lane, and if others are going to blow through lights, then the fight for equal access is going to be more difficult.  All we need is one lawmaker with a sympathetic ear for a group of drivers whose frustration has devolved into hatred, and we’ll have laws further limiting bike access just when we need it more.

To quote a renowned car thief and crack head, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

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One response to “We Have an Image Problem

  1. The same hint happens I the media here where I live in Australia. Every time there is a piece in cyclists, it brings out a horde of haters who call for registration of bikes and saying cyclists are always breaking the law etc, its madness!

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