Oh boy, more metaphysical ponderings about cycling!
Nah, just kidding. I’m already bored with that topic. Instead, let’s just toss around some abstract ideas about cycling, and yeah, I’m not sure if I’ll have a point to this in the end, but let’s just get a train of thought going anyway.
So, for various reasons, I’ve been unplugged from the cycling world for a little while now – you know, the one that includes all of the inflammatory articles about cyclists and/vs motorists, the reports of accidents, the stories about adequate infrastructure or the lack thereof, helmets, the endless videos of close passes – and one thing I have only just recently noticed is that, outside of this cycling bubble, I’m actually a little less… sympathetic? tolerant? zealous? interested, maybe? of those who make a big deal out of being a cyclist or some related issue because they use a bike to get around.
I was on the bus a few days ago and was watching two middle-aged, male roadies casually rolling up to an intersection, using the full lane. As I type this I know that this is not only not a big deal, but that it’s actually quite pragmatic a thing to do, and that, anyway, they weren’t holding anyone up, so who cares?
Maybe there was something in my perception of them that made attach an air of self-importance to them and think, “get over yourself, you’re just riding a bike”. But for whatever reason, I did a little. I get that thought often enough when I see roadies, in particular, swanning about like they own the place (which brings up a whole other issue of “owning the place”, and why that is considered by many to be different for different road users, ie, motorists vs cyclists…).
It’s a messed-up relationship I have with it, being a roadie more than often enough, but I honestly look at cyclists now and then and think disparaging thoughts. What is it that makes me do this? What’s the source? Does anyone else experience this?
I know this sounds like it contradicts many things I have said in the past, but then, maybe it doesn’t.
I still think cycling is an important part of the future of not only our cities but of our societies, given its far-reaching benefits. I still get very frustrated at the unthinking and illogical priority people assign to cars (in many cases), and the many ways that our lives have been compromised as a result of that.
However, I have to admit that without the momentum of being on a bike day in and day out, without participating in the subtle but daily battle to assert myself as a normal person with normal rights to move from A to B under the same laws as everyone else, without tuning in to the constant cries of injustice from all parties (however valid they may be) in the various medias – without all of this, sometimes I’m not as sympathetic to cyclists in all contexts as when I am inside the bubble.
Sometimes, I have the thought that cycling isn’t as big of a deal as some people make it out to be. Is it or isn’t it?
Does anyone else have bike riding coursing through their veins, yet now and then feel like everyone needs to just shut-up about it?
It can be viewed both as a first-world problem (as long as you’re comfortably living in a first-world country) and as something that is actually worthy of all of the attention it gets and more. I think that sometimes it can be both at the same time, and that maybe how, when, and where the topic is raised might influence whether people see it as one or the other.
What are the first principles here? What issues do we work this back to? Equal access to movement? A basic human right to safety? The environment? Inclusive and safe communities? Our physical health? Cycling has an impact on all of these things. Where do we start when it comes to deciding whether or not cycling is something that deserves to be a thing we make a big deal about?
We might need to consider context – there are some places where cyclists can afford to be more relaxed about their place in society, and others where it’s a bigger deal. Adelaide isn’t too bad – it could certainly be worse, but is that a reason to be apathetic about making it better? What’s the cost of leaving it until later? Can we afford to take our foot off the accelerator?
Do we have to wait until it’s too late to make any real effort like we’ve done with the environment, the economy, or the population problem? Are we so used to living in our own selfish, personal comfort zones that we can’t understand someone making a big deal about something without that thing having some immediate threat to our existence?
So, yes, I think that we should be making a bit deal about cycling (not the sport, obviously) because it is important. However, I also think that I would be unwise to simply brush aside the feeling I get on occasion – that feeling that makes me roll my eyes at someone bleating on about a close pass that may or may not have been, the roving groups of roadies, all the “war on our roads” vitriol, or anything else that contains reasons for concern but also makes me lose interest. Who knows, maybe I’m just tired and don’t have the energy for it at the moment…
Either way, I think we might need to put more effort into the way we deliver our perspectives about cycling, and I think that is the issue here.
You know what? I will bring Trump into this! Today, less than 24 hours after he was elected as POTUS, I am already sick of hearing about it. Why is this? Not because it’s not important, because it is, but because pretty much nobody is talking about it in an informed, reasoned, rational way. Everyone is freaking out about it in an entirely reactionary way, taking sides based on the comments of our favourite pop-culture “experts”, taking the moral high-ground, making sweeping, black-and-white statements about something that they haven’t thought through or educated themselves on aside from the soundbites that the media has fed them. Indignant, uninformed, and ineffective.
Pointless. And boring.
Most people outside of the US (look at me, making sweeping statements…) have assumed the opinion that Trump is anything from a clown to Hitler, but I’ve not had, nor overheard one conversation with someone who has looked at the situation and said, “Let’s just all calm down for a second and assess this. This isn’t a doomed situation. There are actually some things that could see an improvement here, even while there are other things to be concerned about. It’s not as bad as it looks, or at least it certainly doesn’t have to be.” And that’s assuming that we have the slightest idea about what we’re talking about in the first place.
I think I feel like removing myself from the issues of simply riding a bike in society when it feels more like a US election. I get bored with it when people make issues about things that aren’t really the issue. With making villains of people or groups of people because it’s easier. Creating boogeymen. Creating division. Assigning immense importance to trivial things.
When we leave balanced, critical thought at the door but continue to lazily peddle our moral indignation, we are doing nothing of value and run the risk of alienating not only those who disagree with us, but also the silent majority who may not yet have any opinion on the matter.
If you want to deliver your perspective on cycling through words or actions, give it some consideration first. Otherwise, maybe toning it down or just keeping your mouth shut is the more expedient option.
Maybe I’ve diagnosed my condition after all.
Header image: source