So often bicyclists shame each others’ riding behavior, not because it’s dangerous, but because it somehow presents people on bikes in a negative light. To accept this line of logic, we must assume that as riders we’re all committing a political act of obedience, asking for approval and safe passage from the dominant drivers of metal Priuses and SUVs.
I’ve always loathed this rationale, as well as the one that says cycling should be as bland and boring as possible, shunning eccentricities for fear of making our world seem inaccessible. Guys who customize hotrods for auto conventions don’t deter soccer moms from driving mini-vans. Nobody polled as to why they don’t ride cites an abundance of freaks as their reason for steering clear from the bike life.
— ZM (@redmenace42) September 24, 2014
Never more self-righteous than when policing our own.
What a vast majority do cite as their strongest fear is safety. The elusive ‘Interested but Concerned‘ crowd, which comprises a majority of nonriders, simply feel riding a bike in the street is dangerous, and not because of the bike. By and large, this is because of all the damn drivers out there.
Statistically, cycling is vastly safer than driving. Yet any article about a woman biking with her kids will induce commenters to label the mother reckless for ‘endangering’ her children. Despite this cognitive dissonance, nowhere will you find similar comments directed at parents driving their kids to and fro, despite motor vehicles being by far the highest cause of unnatural child mortality.
Since driving is such a dangerous act, and cycling is actually extremely safe, why is there such a misconception? Why are so many people afraid to ride bikes? Previously I’ve speculated that the self-imposed safety patrol culture that’s infested American cycling has stifled efforts to increase ridership. But it’s gotta’ be more than that.
What if the actual risk of being hit by cars isn’t as scary as the threatening attitudes so often displayed by motorists? How much of a risk you believe drivers to be may largely depend on how serious you take their threats and insults. Below is a small sampling via Twitter.
Can’t stand cyclist, get the fuck over!!!???? — HULK ‘unicorn’ (@RosieJenner) September 16, 2014
Cyclists are pricks???? think they own the roads!
— sophie hicks (@SophieHicks2) September 21, 2014
What the fuck is wrong with these cyclists riding in the road. GET ON THE SIDEWALK. I ran another one into a ditch today. Hardy har. — Edward Snowden (@TheTrueHooHa) September 24, 2014
— M?rc A?ron (@marcus_latrell) September 24, 2014
Opened the door of cab right in bike lane. I hate bikers. — Françoise Gordon (@FunnyFranc) September 19, 2014
You’re not a car fag! pic.twitter.com/2CwWnEW68K
— Det. Finkleberry (@four0jetta) September 11, 2014
Why do cyclists feel the need to cycle side by side.Fucking nothing worse. Always get as close to them as I can just to piss them off
— Barnesy OK (@Barnesy99Ryan) September 10, 2014
Are these people inherently cruel? Probably not. Most of us understand the confinement of the automobile crushes empathy while putting drivers under unique stress not experienced by passengers. Most motorists don’t get in their car with the intention of endangering others’ lives, yet every year tens of thousands of them kill and maim people anyway.
With such a lethal track record, hostile threats do nothing to make riders feel like their lives are respected in the streets. It’s no wonder that in most cities, only the ‘Fearless and Confident‘ are comfortable taking a lane and firing back when needed.
“Utter twat”, “Fucking arsehole” & “Moronic cunt”. 3 things I shouted at motorists while cycling home with my daughter. I’m not apologetic
— KitKat Slommy (@PurpleMouse) September 13, 2014
What do you think, do cars themselves frighten you, or is the attitudes and individual behavior of drivers that stresses you while riding? Does venting in the moment or later on social media reaffirm your sense of autonomy? What’s the worst display of driver harassment of bicyclists you’ve seen, or best cyclist retort?