I contributed a tweet to the matter, but it seems as though it now deserves a closer look.
Family Feud (Australia) tonight: something annoying a cyclist might do. Answers: "ride in the driving lane." It was on the board.
— The Sticky Bidon (@GraemeThiessen) January 13, 2015
There has been substantial backlash in response to Family Feud’s dealing with the rather touchy subject of cycling. On Tuesday’s show, the question was asked, “What is something annoying that a cyclist might do?” The answers, for anyone that doesn’t already know, are as follows in descending order:
- Wear Lycra
- Ring Bell
- Ride slowly
- Pull out in front
- Run red light
- Cut you off
- Taking driving lane
The Sydney Morning Herald joins in on the media frenzy, noting that the answers all “had a negative slant”. Well spotted. A spokesperson for network Ten notes that “the results are determined by a survey of 100 Australians and we understand they are not necessarily reflective of all Australians”. Oh. Well, their hands are clean then, I guess.
So here we have a situation where a major network’s number one prime-time game show takes a position on the cyclist/motorist debate, and clearly takes the side of the motorist. It is particularly bad because it does it in such a casual, lighthearted way. “Cyclists are such a pain! Let’s all join together and laugh at them!”
This is generating some pretty serious traffic, even internationally. The Washington Post picked up the story and had this to say about it:
But Down Under, hating bicyclists isn’t just fodder for newspaper think pieces — it’s entertainment for the masses.
You’re either going to read that and find it funny (drongo), or you’re going to read it and despair at it’s accuracy (person with a brain). This is seriously embarassing, Australia. Our reputation for being laid back and having a good time sometimes just comes off as ignorant and immature. This is one of those times.
Much of the backlash has been directed at the answers, all of which are negative. None of them are novel to cyclists. We’ve all heard them a thousand times before, but to have Family Feud put them put on national television and be embraced by the nation really gets the blood boiling.
The answers are bad, no doubt. That the average person thinks that it’s annoying when a cyclist uses the driving lane, as in, for cars, rather than the lane, as in, for vehicles (which includes bicycles, by law), is discouraging. That ringing a bell is considered annoying when it is done as a warning or a heads-up to pedestrians in an effort to facilitate travel for both parties when on a shared path, is ridiculous. That “everything” is an answer at all, is completely unacceptable. The remaining answers are read aloud by the entire studio audience, taking on a slightly unnerving, dystopian tone, and when “everything” is finally revealed on the board, as all the contestants turn to each other and laugh heartily. “Oh, those silly, pesky cyclists in their stupid Lycra!”, the image reads. Such glee on their faces.
There is something far more deplorable that Network Ten and Family Feud have done, however, and that is that they asked the question in the first place.
This illustrates the position that far too many people take by default. Asking closed questions, expecting only the answers you want to hear.
When the task is to name something annoying that cyclists do, the outcome is obviously going to be disparaging against cyclists. The question leaves no room for anything else. They could have asked, “what is something that you would identify or associate with cycling” or something to that effect, but they didn’t (not that it would have likely have garnered better answers). That wouldn’t guarantee huge amounts of press. When they identified this question as a good one to ask 100 average Australians, they knew exactly what they were up to. They knew exactly what kind of response this would generate. They knew exactly how they would respond. They’ve done it before, after all, and I’m sure they’ll do it again. Popular Australia supports this kind of behaviour, which is why it will have to be dragged kicking and screaming with its last breath into the future where cycling, not to mention responsible thinking, is a reality.
It will happen, one way or another. At least, that’s what I tell myself…
Header image: Network Ten (via Sydney Morning Herald)