There was a link to my last Thursday’s post about the Matthew Parris apology, on a cycling blog called Turnings.
It posted my piece with the following comment:
“Here’s the problem, none of these cyclists who are forever watchdogging all the comments of others (and granted beheading is a bit strong) ever wonder or decry the fact that cyclists the world over are perceived the same way. What can we, as a community, do about the issues the press and individuals raise? No small impact the clothing, packaging, manufacturing, etc have on the environment, or the lawlessness and discourtesy that are often foisted on an unsuspecting public that has no framework to understand our point of view, and worse, we do it with a righteous attitude rife with implication that we are saving the world! How about we work on *that* some more?”
The comment by Daniel Berlinger makes an excellent point. Yes actually, I do wonder and think about the subject often. It seems at times we are our own worst enemy.
Cyclists are arrogant is always the cry, Lycra Louts in some parts of the world. In defense of the cyclist a person could say, is it any wonder they are arrogant, anyone would be after being cursed at, honked at, had stuff thrown at them on a daily basis; cut off, knocked down and even seen their fellow cyclists killed.
But, as the comment above points out, the public has no framework to understand the cyclist’s point of view, and do most care about that viewpoint anyway?
The cyclist can argue that he has the right to ride on road, and he does by law. Does he have the “perceived right” by public opinion? Definitely not, the mindset of some is that cyclists don’t belong on the road, and just by being there appears arrogant. However, is acting in an arrogant manner, and giving people the finger the best way to change public opinion?
The lycra and the helmet has nothing to do with anything, it is the cyclist’s different color skin. It is what sets us apart and causes others to judge us by our appearance. And, like any minority group, the moment we put on that skin and get on a bike we are all judged by the worst standard of behavior of those within our group.
Just because a person in a car hurls abuse at a cyclist because he impedes his way, is it any different if the cyclist then does the same to the pedestrian who steps out in front of him? Does the shouting and abuse help, or make the situation any better? We are all just people trying to get to and from somewhere or other.
Does it help the cyclists cause when a car has to wait at a stop light and a cyclist rides straight through; what gives him the divine right to do that? It is just plain rude, a person wouldn't push in front of someone in line at a movie theatre. Where is the difference?
Change in attitude on both sides is needed; however, it will have to come from the cyclist first. Why? Because the cyclist has the most to gain and at the same time the most to loose. Everybody gains something, but most road users can’t see that yet.
More bikes, less congestion, for one. Safety, and less people killed on the roads will be another. It will cause everyone to slow the fuck down, and realize they will still get where they are going on time, without the carnage we have today.
I think the best way to bring change about, is not by any cyclists’ rights movement, but by individual riders, clubs and small groups of friends who ride together setting their own rules and codes of behavior.
When I’m out riding, I expect sloppy and poor driving from some people. I see it all the time when I drive my car, so it is not going to change just because I am on a bike. I stay alert; I ride defensively, and try not to let it spoil my ride.
When someone is waiting to turn or pull out from a side road, and they see me and are obviously waiting for me to pass, I give a thank you wave. Even though they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
I do this because it is no effort, it costs me nothing, but does a lot for the cycling cause. It lets them know that not everyone in lycra and a helmet is a jerk. A thank you wave will do more for the next cyclist they see on road. Giving someone the finger if they cut you off, will most likely make them deliberately cut off the next cyclist they see.
But this is just me; when some bike riders can’t acknowledge and return my wave as a fellow cyclist, I wonder if I am expecting too much of this same person to give a thank you wave to a motorist. However, think on this, if you can give the finger if someone wrongs you, it takes no more effort to recognize someone doing the right thing.
As for the save the world issue, that is a band wagon that many of us have jumped on. Let’s be honest with ourselves; if cars ran on pixie dust and had zero carbon emissions, we would still ride because it is what we do, we are cyclists. And the fact that millions of little polyesters died to make my jersey, is neither here nor there.
Any other watchdog bloggers out there care to expand on the subject and add their viewpoint.