Anyone who rides a bike knows what sort of rider they are.
Some will be what a friend of mine refers to as ‘la de dar’ bike riders. They are good. Others are Lycra lads and ladettes or MAMIL’s. They are good too. And then there are those like me. Common commuters who don’t really even know a fixie from a mountain bike, a hybrid from a unicycle. OK, I’m exaggerating to prove a point, but hopefully you get my drift: Common commuters just want to get from A to B and use a bike to get there. We were probably doing it before it was cool and will ride no matter what the weather. And we are good too.
My point is that we all want the same thing, essentially: we want to be able to ride safely, whether it be in Lycra, lace or Blundstones.
And yet, and yet…all too often there is a division amongst us. The la de dar riders hate the fixie folk, the fixie folk hate the Lycra lads and ladettes, the Lycra ladettes and lads hate the common commuters and the common commuters hate the BMX bandits. The BMX bandits hate everyone. And that they have to wear a helmet.
What is with this? Why do we need this division? Are we not all road users? Are we not all struggling to get better paths built for cyclists, regardless of the sort of cyclist we are? I would like to think so.
I have a theory about the people who ride aggressively on the road and it comes from riding a bike in city streets for 10 years and looking at how cyclists interact with one another. There is definitely a competitive element amongst us all. Even if you don’t own the expensive bike, you want to prove that your bike is just as good, just as worthy and just as capable as any other (namely the one sitting next to you at the lights). Where there should be camaraderie there is competition. There also seems to be a sense of entitlement with many riders. Not stopping at stop signs, red lights, or pedestrian crossings (even when pedestrians are clearly crossing) all seem to be a ‘right’ for some cyclists, even if the law would deem it otherwise.
My theory, and this is the point of this post, is that some cyclists have this competitive, tough person ‘I’m above the law’ stuff going on because to ride a bike on a road in Melbourne right now, in 2014, is dangerous. Of course you’re going to feel tough and above the law and a little competitive and just a little bit arrogant and maybe a bit too cool for school. What would solve this? Better infrastructure. If people didn’t feel that riding a bike was ‘tough’ then they wouldn’t have to prove themselves as it would be seen as any other mode of transport.
Do people who ride trains feel tough? Do people who ride buses or trams feel tough? No, because it’s an everyday thing with a very small degree of risk as it’s so safe and people from all walks of life do it – it is seen as normal.
Still not convinced? Do you believe that most of Amsterdam feel ‘tough’ and therefore flout the rules when they’re on their bikes? Of course not. It’s a normal, everyday form of transport that 7 year olds do amongst 70 year olds. Make it normal, allow people to feel safe and I believe attitudes amongst cyclists themselves (along with perceptions of them) will change.