So, I asked my Mom, who has never cycled in her life and has grown up, like most people, in a motorists world, to write something about cycling. We’ve talked about it lots lately, but I was curious to read what she would come up with if it was a blank slate. I’ve chipped away at my family for years in regards to their default position on cycling (not because I’ve had an agenda to do so, more so simply as a natural defense of what I do), and I think they see riding a bike in a slightly different way than they did 20 years ago. Anyway, this is from Mom (edit: edits are mine):
Confessions of a MOAC
They say confession is cathartic. Good for the soul. I’m about to find out.
Until a few years ago, my attitude towards cyclists was typical of many (most) drivers, at least in North America and Australia, where distances between destinations can be considerable, and where we take for granted that access to a vehicle and the ability to drive it, unimpeded by Lesser Beings such as cyclists, is essential to our very existence.
In other words, when I was in a tolerant mood, I looked down my nose at anyone riding a bike on a non-residential public road.
Let’s face it, driving a car, on a road that was made for cars, automatically makes me morally superior to these cycling interlopers who infringe upon my government-issued birthright to use the entirety of any and all lanes in which I choose to drive, at any and all times of day or night.
And if a cyclist were to challenge my moral superiority, I would simply run him or her off the road (figuratively speaking, of course) with the physical superiority inherent in my bigger, heavier, stronger and speedier mode of transport.
Why, I wondered, was it so difficult for a cyclist to acknowledge the obvious, which was that people who drive cars have Places To Go, Things To Do and People To See. People who ride bikes clearly do not, because they’re riding a bike.
If I happened to notice a cyclist flouting a traffic law (cruising through a stop sign or red light, failing to signal an upcoming turn, or taking up an entire lane instead of hugging the curb and allowing me to brush by with inches to spare), my tolerant mood would vanish in a puff of red-tinged smoke. A flurry of honks and perhaps some well-timed tailgating would ensue. Further venting might occur later in the day, in the form of dramatic storytelling over the dinner table. ‘You won’t believe what this stupid cyclist did to me today!’
Here’s the thing. I have a son. He is in his mid-thirties and he lives in Australia. Over the past nine years, his youthful dedication to driving mysteriously and gradually weakened before slipping into a coma. I could only watch helplessly from across the ocean as he was insidiously lured from the world of cars to the world of bikes and, finally, to the Cult of Cycling. It was one of those subtle but relentless attacks that you don’t even realize has happened until it’s over, and you’ve been turned.
Now my son lives and works and breathes Cycling. He has happily guzzled the Kool-Aid. He is a grownup who doesn’t own a car and doesn’t want to.
Surely, I thought, he will eventually realize that he has unwittingly become a member of a subversive group whose goal it is to undermine my right as a driver to own the road. Sooner or later, he will allow himself to be deprogrammed and resume his proper place behind the wheel of a car.
It wasn’t until I was confronted by a Deprogrammer that I was forced to admit that it was I who had undergone a lifetime of brainwashing, and that I was a bona fide member of the Cult of Motor Vehicles.
In my case, the Deprogrammer happened to be my son. Our sessions (paraphrased and condensed for purposes of brevity) included, but were not limited to, the following exchanges:
Son: By not owning a car, I am saving heaps of money on car payments, fuel, maintenance and insurance.
Mom: Umm . . .
Son: I greatly reduce my carbon footprint by riding a bike rather than driving a car.
Mom: Ugh . . .
Son: My commute to and from work takes less time by bike than it would by car.
Mom: Nooo . . .
Son: My early-morning rides in the Hills fill my lungs with fresh air. They keep me and my fellow riders fit as fiddles. They enable us to properly enjoy sunrises and scenery. They are stress-relieving and endorphin-producing. Does driving a car do any of those things for you?
Mom: Humph . . .
Son: By the way, roads were originally made for walking and wagons and horses and . . . wait for it . . . bicycles (edit: actually, it was bicycles who were almost exclusively responsible for roads as we know them). Cyclists can lay claim to being one of the Original Inhabitants of modern roads. Cars and their drivers were the Invading Hordes that swarmed and overpowered the peaceful bicycle population through petrol power and self-aggrandizing motor muscle (edit: I don’t recall putting it that way, per se, but… what she said) .
Mom: . . .
Son: …sorry, what was that? Yeah, that’s what I thought! (edit: I just put that last part in, because it’s my blog and I can do what I want…)
I won’t even get into the nitty-gritty details of the sessions relating to the problem of both pedestrians and cyclists who are forced to carry the onus of responsibility for staying safe from distracted and dangerous motor vehicle drivers. Nor will I mention the insignificant fines leveled at drivers who are found at-fault for causing the death of a pedestrian or cyclist (because, you know, accidents will happen), versus all of the media and political attention focused on cyclists “doing the wrong thing” and all of the carnage that it is supposed to cause.
So, I must now confess that my attitude towards cyclists has undergone a radical change. When a wobbling and weaving cyclist risks his life trying to navigate the icy ruts and gaping potholes of Canadian winter roads, I merely utter a tender tsk tsk before carefully activating my indicator and maneuvering around him. When a properly helmeted and outfitted cyclist blasts past me in the next lane, my vision no longer turns red with rage. Instead, I smile and say, ‘That’s my Boy!’. It’s a strange feeling. I’m still coming to terms with it, but it boils down to this:
Because I want all drivers who come across my cycling son to respect him and his right to share the road, I am starting to think of all cyclists as my children.
My name is,
and I am both a Driver and the Mother Of All Cyclists.
Header image: source