Cycling

Why do bicyclists hate cyclists?

On my commute home the other day, I passed a woman bicyclist ambling and weaving in the Bloor Street Viaduct bike lane. She called me an “asshole” as I passed. As I rode the rest of the way home, I thought about the reasons why she would call me an “asshole”. Not that I’m not sometimes, but I don’t think I was this time.

AfIrp

I was moving a lot faster than she was but I gave her plenty of space. The lane is certainly wide enough to accommodate several bicyclists and, as is my usual practice, I rode on the white line separating the bike lane from the road. She had plenty of room to do her bobbing and weaving. So it couldn’t have been that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I didn’t say anything to her nor look at her as I passed.  I didn’t throw anything at or in front of her. I wasn’t wearing an offensive t-shirt or political button, not that she could see them anyway.

So what was it?

In the two or three seconds it took me to pass her, something I did pissed her off. Then it occurred to me – maybe it wasn’t something I did. I suspect it had something to do with who I am and who I represent.

You see, there are two types of people who ride bikes: the bicyclist and the cyclist.

The bicyclist likes to amble in a bicycle lane safe from cars and trucks; they ride in fair weather only – no rain or snow or any temperature above 20C or below 10C and even then they wear a parka; they ride slowly on heavy, multi-speed bicycles and carry bulky panniers or bags. They sport all sorts of lefty political buttons and flags. They hate cars but own two and one is a Volvo. They use terms like “bicycle infrastructure”, “cycle tracks”, “separated lanes”, and other catchy phrases. All well and good and I love these people.

The cyclist on the other hand likes to ride fast on the road with cars and trucks; we ride all year, in all sorts of weather; we carry a small backpack, courier bag or Henty Wingman.  We ride a fixed-gear Wabi or single-speed, racing or cyclocross bike. We use bike lanes if they are available but, when they’re not, we ride wherever we can. We respect cars and trucks because we drive one and pedestrians because we are one. And we respect bicyclists too.

But it seems some bicyclists, but mostly the bicycling advocates, actually hate cyclists.

And I know why.

You see, bicyclists want to turn “cycling” into mass transit. Have you seen the photos of bicycle lanes – BORING – do any of these people look happy? Just like taking a bus!

Copenhagen

They want cycling regulated and protected, hemmed in and controlled. They want to slow it down and make it boring and safe.

They hate cyclists like me because they resent our freedom. We are the rebels; they are the conformists. They try to insult us and make us seem selfish. They label us a “sub-culture”. One guy called us a “sect”, like we are apostates from the accepted religion of Velo. vintage4Here is my fisking of that guy, Michael Colville-Andersen, a Danish bicycling zealot, who I respect but who is dead wrong about this:

It is a small, yet vocal, group that is male-dominated, testosterone-driven [so what, why is that a bad thing? And I know plenty of young ladies who would disagree] and that lacks basic understanding of human nature [ya, cus we’re dumb, come on]. They expect that everyone should be just like them – classic sub-cultural point of view [sort of the pot calling the kettle black, don’t cha think?] – and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars [I really don’t care if you do or you don’t]. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn’t resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities [yawn – like we actually think about that when we’re riding] by reestablishing the bicycle as transport [wow – so much dreck here it’s hardly worth commenting – again, I wish the grandmothers all the best and hope they can ride well into their older age, on cycle tracks if they must]

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I urge you to read the whole smear. Heaven forbid we disagree. Check out London Cyclist and this former Labour Minister for some perspective.

My advice: don’t wait around for the zealots to force you into the bicycle lanes. Just hop on your bike and ride. There is plenty of room for all of us on the road – and plenty of good ideas from everyone in the debate.

Historical Badasses

I love this feature by Brook Sutton at Adventure Journal (www.adventure-journal.com). Here are two stories about Historical badass cyclists:

First up, is Marshall “Major” Taylor:

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The 1890s kicked off the first “golden age” of cycling. A biking craze was sweeping the globe, with high wheelers being replaced by the latest technology of the “safety” bike. The safety design, which essentially was just two similarly-sized wheels, provided unheralded access to a smooth, comfortable ride.

Pneumatic tires, an improved chain drive, and mass production made bikes more comfortable, easier to steer, and readily available – at least for the well-to-do. The safety bikes were even considered suitable for women, a development that sounds ridiculous now, but that was heralded as one of the most powerful steps toward liberation by activists of the day.

It also was just over a decade after the Civil War and long before the civil rights movement had any traction. While bikes may have served as a source of daily independence for women, the same could not be said for African-Americans. Even if they could afford a bike, they still had an uphill battle for the same basic rights and liberties. Marshall Taylor’s story is that of a champion athlete, but it is both tragic and triumphant that his story cannot be told without attention to the color of skin.

Taylor (1878-1932) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to a family of eight kids. When he was eight years old, his parents allowed him to move in with a wealthy family for whom his father worked. He lived happily with the surrogate family for four years and received a good education and a loving upbringing. And when the family moved out of town, they gave young Taylor a bicycle as a parting gift. At 12, he was now on his own, with only his clothes and a bike.

Read the whole article here.

Next up, the great Fausto Coppi:

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He is one of the most decorated cyclists of all time. He is the only Tour de France rider to have won the first Tour he entered, as well as the last. He won the Giro d’Italia five times, was the 1953 world champion, and he held the hour record for 14 years. His list of cycling accomplishments reads more like the pie-in-the-sky dreams of an ambitious child than the real life of a butcher shop boy from Castellania, Italy.

He is Fausto Coppi, and the “best cyclist of all time” doesn’t sound like hyperbole when it follows his name.

No one’s life story is as tidy as the numbers that validate our accomplishments. Coppi’s was no different. Amidst social scandals, World War II, performance enhancing drugs, and an Ali/Frazier level of rivalry with Gino Bartali, Coppi’s genius on a bike managed to transcend the frequently dirty business of living in the public spotlight.

Born in 1919 in the Piedmont region of Italy, Coppi took to cycling in his early teens. He was a scrawny and quiet kid, more apt to spend time alone than to socialize with friends. Long days on the bike in the shadows of the Dolomites would serve him and his legacy well. The Italian could spin, climb, sprint, and time trial with equal panache.

Read the rest here and be sure to check out Sutton’s Weekend Cabin feature while you’re there.

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A History of the Bicycle: Harry Mount reviews Paul Smethurst’s The Bicycle: Towards a Global History

From The Spectator

Bicycling is more than a means of transport: it’s a religion — that I peddle, says Harry Mount

Harry Mount is exhilarated by cycling — but finds Paul Smethurst’s history of the bicycle disappointingly stodgy
The romance of cycling is suggested in this advertisement for Columbia Bicycles, with its quotation from ‘Lochinvar’

The romance of cycling is suggested in this advertisement for Columbia Bicycles, with its quotation from ‘Lochinvar’

The Bicycle: Towards a Global HistoryPaul Smethurst

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.194, £19.99, ISBN: 9781137499509

Bicycles — in Britain, anyway — are the Marmite means of transport. I am among the bicycle-lovers, almost religious and certainly addicted in my need to have a daily bike ride. But I can see why people — and drivers in particular — hate some of us: for our smugness, our need to keep on moving through red lights and along pavements. It isn’t like this in Holland, where bicycling is so embedded in daily life that most drivers are bicyclists and vice versa; where mutual understanding leads to mutual respect.

Why do bicycles have this effect? Of intense affection among some, hatred among others; of mass use in some countries, limited use in others? Paul Smethurst could have answered the question. And his book does have some juicy little statistics in it. But I’m afraid it’s so mired in stodgy academese that it’s a deep disappointment.

It touches on some good points, not least class and bicycling. As former third- world countries advance, they cast aside their bikes, considered a sign of poverty. They particularly cast aside old-fashioned sit-up-and-beg bikes, now extremely fashionable among the British bicycling middle classes.

In time, though, China and India are bound to embrace the bike once again. There’s a natural life cycle — if you’ll forgive the pun — to the bicycle. Poor countries exchange them for cars when they get richer. When the roads clog up, they return to the bike, the magical object that sails serenely past traffic jams. Already, Chinese cities are starting to introduce pollution-reducing mass transit systems with integrated bike-share schemes.

Read the whole thing here.

Ride a Bike – Save Money

Henry Gold writes about cycling infrastructure:

Last month both the federal and Ontario governments delivered budgets promising billions of dollars for infrastructure. It makes sense considering a 2013 study by CD Howe institute that estimates the congestion cost for Greater Toronto and Hamilton area to be between $7.5 billion to $11 billion per year. A recent study by the same institute for Metro Vancouver area estimates hidden costs of congestion per year to be between $500 million and $1.2 billion a year. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that overall congestion cost in Canada is over $15 billion per year and growing.

What if you had a magic wand and could reduce congestion by 1 per cent a year for several years and it required no new funds. Would you use the wand? What if the wand would also reduce pollution and the carbon released into the atmosphere? What if it would help companies with productivity, individuals’ health and even job satisfaction? Sounds like something out of science fiction, doesn’t it?

It’s not. A simple approach that has succeeded in putting over a half million commuters on bikes in the United Kingdom was a creation of an annual tax exemption. The “cycle to work” scheme encourages employees to cycle and allows employers to reap the benefits of a healthier workforce, not to mention the benefits to the population as a whole, including drivers. After all, one more bicycle on the road means one less automobile fighting for precious space. Plus less pollution in the air and less natural resources to be dug out and transported across the planet.

Read the whole article here.

Road Rage Psychology – courtesy of Urban Velo

Road Rage Psychology

rageI’ve always felt the argument that one rule-breaking cyclist (“You ran a red light?! Now we’re all gonna die!!”) is what compels drivers to hate all our collective guts, is very weak. Human nature is far more complex and subconscious than this, as is argued by BBC writer, Tom Stafford, as he pulls from evolutionary theory and social psychology to give a more thorough explanation of this road rage phenomenon. He explains,

…It’s not because cyclists are annoying. It isn’t even because we have a selective memory for that one stand-out annoying cyclist over the hundreds of boring, non-annoying ones (although that probably is a factor). No, my theory is that motorists hate cyclists because they think they offend the moral order…

… Humans seem to have evolved one way of enforcing order onto potentially chaotic social arrangements. This is known as “altruistic punishment”, a term used by Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter in a landmark paper published in 2002. An altruistic punishment is a punishment that costs you as an individual, but doesn’t bring any direct benefit. As an example, imagine I’m at a football match and I see someone climb in without buying a ticket. I could sit and enjoy the game (at no cost to myself), or I could try to find security to have the guy thrown out (at the cost of missing some of the game). That would be altruistic punishment.

I don’t think there is much of a cooperative answer to this problem of cyclists avoiding generally accepted traffic laws, in part as a way of protecting ourselves, but maybe this theory can help you shrug off the haters as you circumvent the moral social order next time the light turns red on you.

Check out Urban Velo – great site and magazine

9 Things Drivers Need to Stop Saying in the Bikes vs. Cars Debate

In Wired this morning, Adam Mann addresses some of the myths about cyclists and makes a lot of good points:

There are certain things guaranteed to set off an internet firestorm. Talk about climate change, mention Monsanto, or bring up the treatment of women in video games. And you can, especially in recent years, piss off a whole bunch of people simply by writing about bikes and cars. Nothing seems to bring out the angry caps lock and personal attacks faster than transportation issues.

A recent report showing more cyclists are dying on US streets prompted a remarkable number of stories about cyclist safety. And in the comments section of each, people rehashed the same tired arguments over and over.

So, before the next big wave of internet arguing, I propose we retire a few overused and underwhelming opinions in the bikes vs. cars debate. Though I drive and bike, my allegiances skew toward cyclists (feel free to scroll straight the comments and yell at me). But beyond my personal judgments lie a great many studies and data showing most of the pro-motorist arguments just don’t hold up. I know it’s hard to be wrong, especially on the internet, but here are a few sentences I hope we see less of in the future.

I agree with almost everything he says except for the part about bike lanes.

I had a driver get very mad at me the other day when I cruised through a stop sign. She beeped her horn and shot me a glance. When I saw her at the next stop sign, she was applying her makeup.

The Cyclist Philosopher

For Andy Duncan, cycling means freedom and life without it is hard to imagine. As a Scotsman and philosopher who stood at the frontier of bike messengering in the Netherlands his affection for cycling stem from the 225.000 km he travelled through the streets and suburbs of Utrecht during the last 22 years. Two years ago Andy was diagnosed with an aggressive prostatic cancer and was told he had only three years to live. We met Andy just before he moved back to Scotland. Surrounded by moving boxes, he was working on his last bike – battered, but resilient and very much in love.

Subtitles are available in English, German, Italian, Spanish en French (press the CC icon to activate).

Special thanks goes out to Lin van den Bremer, Wijnand Brouwer, Nadine Hottenrott, Sandrine Giroird, Catrien Spijkerman, Guido Boulogne and Phaola Dueñas. More info about fifty beans at fiftybeans.nl

Elevated Cycle Paths: Is Toronto missing an opportunity?

Check out this article from City Journal about elevated bicycle lanes. For Toronto, maybe these elevated lanes could be designed to run along the LRTs or John Tory’s Smart Track system?

Other cities think big. In London, famed architect Norman Foster has proposed an ambitious, 136-mile elevated bike path, to be suspended above the city’s suburban rail network. Foster’s “SkyCycle” plan—which could accommodate 400,000 bike commuters daily—has the support of former mayor and potential Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson, as well as the local government agencies responsible for London’s public transportation system. Architect David Nixon envisions a floating bike lane in the Thames River that would allow a car-free commute from the city’s residential areas to the financial district.

In Melbourne, Australia, a consortium of investors has proposed attaching an enclosed, mile-long “Veloway” to the side of an existing rail viaduct running through the city. “[C]ars, bikes and pedestrians just don’t mix well,” Committee for Melbourne CEO Kate Roffey told a reporter earlier this year. “This would solve the problem of separating cars and cyclists moving east-west across the city, and pedestrians can go under or over roads.” A similar approach would seem well suited to New York’s outer boroughs, where, unlike midtown Manhattan, elevated rail viaducts remain the norm. Many commuters in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx would likely take advantage of an option that would get them from home to work in about an hour, safely and free of charge, with a little fitness thrown in.

In Denmark, bike-friendly Copenhagen cut the ribbon this past summer on its Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake—an elevated lane providing cyclists with a much-needed traverse over a pedestrian-heavy corner of the central city. “It is one of those rare occurrences in Copenhagen where seemingly everyone is happy,” wrote Classic Copenhagen blogger Sandra Hoj. “Cars have not had to budge an inch, the lower level has been returned to pedestrians, and cyclists love it. Besides easing the transition from highway to bike bridge, it is a pure joy to ride.”

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