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Your Ride & Prejudice

This post is inspired by Joe T.’s blog entry “The Last Thing Toronto Need is More Cyclists”. Joe makes the point that the term “cyclist” is often inaccurate because most cyclists are also drivers, pedestrians and/or transit users. As Joe puts it: “People who ride bikes are not “cyclists”… they are people who happen to ride bikes.” And if we had more of them, Joe suggests riding would become more mainstream.

Not a cyclist.

Photo courtesy of SpacingToronto

It’s a good read and the comments are equally as thought provoking. But the task of popularizing cycling by making it more pedestrian (forgive me) is very daunting. Why? “Cyclist” and “motorist” are labels used by others. Most riders don’t call themselves “cyclists”, just as most drivers don’t call themselves “motorists” – as Joe puts it, “when someone asks a car driver “so… tell me about yourself”, no normal person says “I’m a motorist!”.”

Unfortunately, the labels are often used negatively, like when riders complain that “motorists” won’t share the road and when drivers decry “cyclists” for always breaking the rules.

Worst of all, the labels engender prejudice.

Behind the Labels – Rider or driver; take away the wheels and what do you have? In both cases: a person. One person rides a bike, the other person drives a car.

Most altercations between drivers and riders are based almost entirely on the fact that one is a “cyclist” and the other a “motorist” – and the prejudice brought by each against the other based on the respective modes of transportation.

Looking at it another way: did you ever see a pedestrian give the finger to another pedestrian after being cutoff, blocked or forced to slow down while walking?   (Happens to me every time I go to the mall – mall walkers are the worst. ;) )

Posted: October 20th, 2010
Filed under: Cycling Issues
Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

6 Comments on “Your Ride & Prejudice”

  1. 1 Joe T. said at 11:05 pm on October 21st, 2010:

    Great post Stephen.

  2. 2 The Clog said at 5:51 am on October 22nd, 2010:

    Actually, yes, I have seen pedestrians get into fracas and bouts of fisticuffs while jockeying for position on Toronto’s walkways.

    Thank you for asking!

  3. 3 Dave Krentz said at 10:19 am on October 22nd, 2010:

    The Clog makes a good point. If pedestrians are stressed and forced to compete for space, then maybe we need to give them more space. Broad, uncluttered sidewalks — next to broad, uncluttered bike lanes — make the scale of a city more “human”, and less dependent on cars.

    Still, I do agree with Steve’s idea that it’s easier to be hostile towards someone when you’re not face to face. Cars distance people from one another. Being wrapped in a ton of metal and marketing savvy means there’s less incentive to behave … the other guy can’t punch you out when you’re at the helm of your Star Destroyer.

    So, make better sidewalks and bike lanes and encourage people to get out of their cars. Not a bad idea if you’re a mayoral candidate wanting to cut waist … oops, “waste”!

  4. 4 Stephen Da Cambra said at 2:34 pm on October 22nd, 2010:

    Joe – Thanks for the comment. I hope I was able to add to the points you made in your posts as opposed to just echoing them.

  5. 5 Stephen Da Cambra said at 2:39 pm on October 22nd, 2010:

    The Clog – Thanks for your comment. I knew someone out there would have an exception to my point! It’s tough to get across what I mean in the spce of a blog entry.

    I’ve had “people who drive cars” holler at me, not for doing anything offensive to them, but merely for being on a bicycle.

    One case that comes to mind is when I pulled into a passing lane to pass construction in the curb lane and got berated for it.

  6. 6 Stephen Da Cambra said at 2:43 pm on October 22nd, 2010:

    Dave Krentz – Agreed – there’s enough existing space on the roads and sidewalks for everyone, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, so let’s make better use of it. Thanks for the comment.

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