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.
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.
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!
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. Here 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]
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.