Friday, October 9, 2009

Thoughts Of The Day

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!


  1. dukiebiddle said...

    Well, you started it... poo poo head. ;-)

  2. "When people yell at us, call us names, throw things at us... it means we are making progress."

    I've had perhaps rather more than my say over at Michael's and don't want to clutter up your personal oriented blog with such contentious clap-trap, but I will reiterate one point I alluded to there as it is apropos to your own comment:

    First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you. Then you win. -- Gandhi

    When they start throwing things at you perhaps you should take heart, knowing you are about to win -although the winning phase does seem to be taking its own, sweet time.

  3. Claire Petersen wrote eloquently on this topic....

  4. Adrienne, Great blog! I had crap thrown at me for the
    1st time like a week ago. I was surprised that instead
    of being pissed, that I actually felt proud.
    Jon C

  5. I just read 1984, and it got me thinking about a lot of things that relate to this... I think in America we've been dealing with a dumbing down of language and thought, a making everything into black and white and strict dichotomies, which makes it easy to set up camp with people who fit in your little label box (whatever it might be) and against everyone else (look at our politics), and it's a great way to keep everyone squabbling about completely irrelevant issues and not paying attention to anything that really matters. This is accomplished not only by creating those dichotomies, but then by encouraging a sense of fear about anything that doesn't fit into your little label box.

    So, Christians are afraid of anything "secular", "motorists" are afraid of "cyclists", the wealthy are afraid of the poor, the suburbanites are afraid of the urbanites, and on and on.

    The thing is, none of those labels means anything, really. We're all just people. We have different beliefs sometimes and we make different choices based on those beliefs, and life works out differently for some of us than others, but there's nothing to be afraid of, we're all basically the same.

    I've also had guys in large trucks shout at me that I should be wearing a helmet - in fact, once he almost startled me into crashing.

    I think as more and more people start riding bikes as transportation, people will get more used to them. It's very similar to what we do with out-of-town drivers - we notice their particular bad driving habits more than those of the people we're used to driving with. That doesn't mean they're objectively any worse.

    Well, here's hoping that we can continue fighting, not only for more cycling, but for less fear.

  6. duckie- perhaps he and I both need a time out? : )

    KFG- Thank you! I could not remember the whole quote or who said it, primarily because I am an air head! It was making me crazy, so thank you for throwing some Gandhi in for me. Humor and intelligence are all welcome here!

    Andy- hahahahahahahahah! Great link!

    Jon- : )

    Portlandize- OK. Now you are throwing in the big guns. There is always fear of the "other". Not because we do not understand them, but because we recognize in them what we most fear in ourselves. When we see someone participating in an activity that challenges the fear we carry in ourselves, we lash out at that person- after all, it is easier to deflect than confront.

    For many people, they have lived in such tight confines, mentally and societally, that it is very uncomfortable for those people to interact with others who have started to break those boundaries. If I have not moved outside my confines from fear, why have you been able to move beyond yours and what does that say about me?

    I could go on, but this probably enough for now! I know you have read this, but I will link to it anyway

  7. It is funny the way people react to me on my reservation ware I work and ride around. 1st of all I am 6ft 3in at 280 pounds Ex-military, people say things like "look at that fagot", it is funny when I get closer they usually shut their mouths.