Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bikes vs cars, cyclists vs drivers, courtesy vs anger

We're all seeing the stories about crazy cyclists taking on drivers, crazy drivers running cyclists off the road and ensuing assaults, those of us who ride have been told to "get off the road", I have told cyclists riding on sidewalks to "get on the road", and then there is the helmet vs no helmet issue as politics.

What is going on?

What strikes me is that there are two types of cyclist presented in media stories.

There is the urban cyclist who is seen as holy than thou, non polluting, an outlier of society - an old fashioned outlaw, someone outside of the protection or control of the law. Certainly the majority of urban cyclists I see on my daily walks to work obey the laws of the road, wear a helmet, and are generally considerate of both the potential dangers around as well as allowing cars to move efficiently on the road. But, and it's a big but, there is a very flamboyant, very noticeable minority that flouts the law, rides on sidewalks and seems to delight in giving drivers a heart attack as they run red lights and swerve in and out of traffic. They are generally called "couriers" regardless of whether they actually work as one.

The other kind is me - we're the ones on road bikes told to "get off the road". We're hassled for wearing spandex shorts for goodness sake. We ride in packs, which really upsets people for some reason, although not nearly as much as the spandex does. There is always some element of classism in the encounter - packs of triathletes (an elitist sport) having a run in with someone in a pick up - good honest working man who hasn't got the time for 100k rides in the sun.

For some reason it seems, the act of getting on a bike seems to be taken as an insult by those who aren't on a bike. When I'm out riding in the country I'm not making a statement about the ethics of driving a car, I drove a car to the country to ride. When I walk to work no one driving thinks I am making a statement that I am "greener" than they are. We drive to work every once in a while too.

Now, am I fitter - probably but I can't make a judgement that the overweight driver in the car that passed me isn't working hard to change their life. If they came within a foot of me I'm pretty sure they aren't but, tomorrow is another day and another start at things.

One thing I do know is that we have to get to the root of what's going on. People are dying.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! I hear you on all of the above...

    I have to say, though, much to my happy surprise, that when I rode in Milton last weekend and had 2 'spaz' episodes where I tripped over my own feet/cleats and landed with a bike over my head on the road... 3 nice people (in pick up trucks) all stopped, got out of their vehicles, and made sure I was all right before driving off.

    Wow. I was not expecting that. Of course, I'm teeny and they may have thought I was a child ;)... but nevertheless, it was appreciated to see such courtesy.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly... there seem to be a lot of aggressions at play and it's scary! I won't ride from my house (near Square One) but instead, drive to the country, like yourself. Maybe we'll meet out there one day :)