Self-identified “cycling evangelist” Richard Fries, who works as Development Adviser for the auto-industry funded People for Bikes advocacy group and clearly writes from a position of privilege, suggests cyclists can win political support by reducing our impact on the roads we share with other vehicles.
In a blog post at People for Bikes, Fries writes that people dislike cyclists because we
are a minority, an easily identifiable “other” who are easily and physically bullied by those with three-ton death machines annoy other people with large group rides. Our boorish roadway manners distress voters and politicians. “One of the most aggravating experiences for motorists”, Fries claims, “is encountering a group ride.”
We blow red lights. Even though we don’t respect red lights and stop signs, we also somehow “swarm” at intersections. We even take the center of the lane
for safety in an inconsiderate and dangerous swirl of “zeal, fitness and narcissism.” He quotes [ Harriett Beecher Stowe: “Why, now comes my master, takes me right away from my work, and my friends, and all I like, and grinds me down into the very dirt! And why? Because, he says, I forgot who I was; he says, to teach me that I am only a nigger!” ]* Walt Kelly: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Fries says those pesky newbies are a big part of the problem.
The rising popularity of charity bike rides has complicated matters. Hundreds of thousands of newly baptized bicyclists are pouring on to the roadways with a lot of information on fitness and equipment and clothing… but zero appropriate instruction on how to ride in, or as, a group. And this poor instruction happens not only on the day of the big ride, but on their weekend training sessions. Emboldened with a sense of mission, many of these riders add to the roadside tension.
The solution? We need to empower and encourage road bulls to control those group rides. We put up with far too much stupid behavior on the road. He looks to Europe as an example.
Go on a group ride in the Netherlands or Denmark or Germany, those places we view as the models of bicycle transit. You will find yourself strictly governed by the patron of each ride on what will and will not be tolerated. I discovered this riding in the Limburg province of the Netherlands with a massive group that included Hennie Kuiper and Jan Janssen, both of whom had been professional world road champions. The group rode with vigor and speed, but stayed tight to the right in double file that did not impede automotive traffic.
What do you think? Yes, I personally cringe at some of the bad behavior I see on group rides and I encourage you to obey the law, but scofflaw behavior isn’t the reason a few outspoken, liberty-hating, anti-American motorheads say they dislike people on bikes.
*FOOTNOTE: Thank you to Cecily for reminding me that the minor and occasional animosity directed to us on bike in way compares to the horrors of chattel slavery, nor to the constant reminder of such in persistent institutional racism. When I get off of my bike, I’m back to my life of privilege. I’ll leave the Uncle Tom reference there for now, but there are plenty of other and more appropriate examples of sycophancy and appeasement in both literature and history.
All photos of traffic hell caused by large groups of unruly cyclists shot by Yours Truly. In order, they are (1) Willow Road in Menlo Park, CA; (2) Highway 101 in Palo Alto, CA; (3) Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, CA; (4) Highway 17, Scotts Valley, CA; (5) Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA.