Whenever I am engaged in conversation with people who are not cyclists, on learning of my background in the bike business, and my continued interest in riding, they will invariably ask me,
“Why do large groups of cyclists take up the whole damn road? If you give even a friendly toot on the horn to let them know you are passing, you will more often than not get the finger. Why are they so hostile and so rude?”
This is how I try to explain it:
First of all in any random group of people you have a cross-section of society. Some are nice people, and some are assholes. It is the assholes in the group that will give you the finger. Rarely would you get the whole group giving the one finger salute in unison. Just as there are assholes who drive cars, there are assholes who ride bikes.
The other thing is the mob mentality. This is a common human trait that we see in any group of people not just cyclists. When people get together in a group they are less considerate of others outside the group.
Your neighbor is having a party, and as the guests leave late at night, they laugh and talk loudly, slam car doors, and disrupt the sleep of people living several houses away. Usually these people are good neighbors, why would they have such inconsiderate friends we ask ourselves?
How many people have been in a restaurant where there is a large group of say ten or more people? I guarantee that party will be extremely loud, often obnoxious, and will have little regard for anyone else who is unfortunate enough to be seated nearby.
However, this is what we have come to expect in certain bars and restaurants. There will always be large groups made up of co-workers, family members, celebrating someone’s birthday or something.
Also an important factor, these are just people you can’t stereotype them.
But get a bunch of cyclists on the road, enjoying each other’s company, and are being no more, or no less considerate of others around them than the party in the restaurant.
The big difference is, now you can stereotype them, they are cyclists. Whenever you see a bunch of cyclist together they seem to be behaving badly, therefore all cyclists are lumped together as being bad.
The larger the group the worse the behavior. Take sports fans assembled in their thousands and the mob mentality really takes over. The mob could be angry over their team’s loss, or celebrating their victory, the outcome is the same. Store windows are broken, parked cars are overturned, and even set on fire. Most people would not behave that way individually, or even in a smaller group.
This is how I try to explain why some cyclists behave badly. I don’t condone it. It is one of the reasons I no longer ride with large groups, even though it can be fun. So I ask that people don’t condemn me for riding a bike, just because a few cyclists behave badly.
What is needed is a little more tolerance and understanding on both sides. Cyclists need to be a little more considerate of other road users. Remember Lycra is the different color skin we put on, so we will be stereotyped and others like us will be judged by our behavior.
And the general public needs to realize that these are just a group of friends enjoying each other’s company, and getting some fresh air and exercise while doing so. And if it is a Sunday, where are you going in such a big fucking hurry anyway?
What are your views, and how do you handle the conversation with non-cyclists?
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