Mikael has a really great essay in five parts on the "Fear Of Cycling" going on over at Copenhagenize. The subject of fear is one of my favorites (maybe I should go back to school and study sociology?) so this has been a good read for me. One of the subjects the writer, Dave Horton, tackles is the practice of marginalizing and scapegoating cyclists for being cyclists (within the context of bicycle riding in the UK)-
"Against the context of socially and ecologically destructive automobility, the reproduction of concerns about cyclists’ behaviour is a classic example of scapegoating (Cohen 2002). Scapegoating deflects attention away from greater crimes, by in this case sacrificing the cyclist in the ideological pursuit of ‘motoring-as-usual’. Through representing the marginal practice of cycling as ‘deviant’, the dominant practice of car driving is reproduced and reaffirmed as ‘normal’. Representations of cycling as deviant and cyclists as outsiders both contribute to, and are facilitated by, low levels of cycling which mean that few people are able to take, and defend, the cyclist's point of view."
This brings up two thoughts I have had lurking around my head, lately (I need to get them out before they collide like a couple of drunk fixie riders : D).
Thought #1- The rider as a "deviant". I understand that choosing to ride a bike for transportation is a radical choice in this day and age, especially in places like the sprawling suburbs that were built just for the motorist to get away from the city. When everything is against you riding, you have to be pretty strong willed to do it anyway.
How is this above scene threatening? What makes this man riding on a beautiful day with his absolutely gorgeous little boy in any way damaging to anyone else's sense of self? What makes this scene make so many drivers so nervous and aggressive?
What makes these riders so different as people that others feel they are undeserving of safe passage and respect?
How does getting from point A to point B become political, or economic, or threatening... anything other than just getting where we are going?
Thought #2- When people yell at us, call us names, throw things at us... it means we are making progress. I know it does not seem like it, but you have to be noticed in the first place to be insulted.
The other day, I was riding to pick up Declan from school. A guy, about to get into a car with his friends deliberately dropped a soda can on the ground. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed, so I called to him "Hey, you dropped something!" and kept riding. I knew I would hear from him once he and his friends drove by, but I wasn't too worried. Sure enough, as they passed me, he and his friend hung out the window and yelled "Wear a fucking helmet you fucking hippie!". I looked them right in the face and laughed! They had to find a way to insult me and they used the bicycle world equivalent of calling me a "poopoo head" to do it. "Wear a helmet" has become an insult, and as it is a pretty weak one, I can't help but think it is the last gasp of society seeing the cyclist as the "outsider".
I could write a bunch more, but I'd rather get out and ride! Ride on people!