I read a post on CityLab the other day describing how bicyclists should rejoice in the new word bikelash. It appears that we’ve moved to step three in the battle for acceptance in American society. First is ridicule, and we’ve certainly been there for a long time. I remember my high school social studies teacher, Mrs. Ryan, stopping me in the hall to ask where I parked my horse. The second stage, the one for which bikelash has been coined, is the stage of violent opposition. Now I don’t know about the new term, but I’ve also been experiencing violent opposition for a very long time. I’ve had all manner of foodstuffs and food containers thrown at me from speeding cars. I’ve been called, as my mother used to say, everything but a child of God while pedaling along city streets. I’ve even been run off into a ditch on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, with the coining of bikelash, we are officially in stage two. What comes next?
Acceptance. I must admit that I feel less anxious riding these days than I can ever recall. I covered the entire US this spring without ever exchanging harsh words with another individual. I did have a few arguments with the wind, the hills, and a lot with myself. Even still, I don’t think we’re close to acceptance. For one thing, we still don’t play well with others. Yes, I said it. Bike riders need to get better at sharing the road (and staying off of the sidewalk) before we can expect to be accepted by the non-riding public. I know my bike riding friends will tell you that it’s those trouble making, fixie riding, Jimmy John’s delivery people that are giving bike riders a bad name. They do, but every one of us seems to do our little part to alienate the non-riding public. I’m first to admit that I’ll run a red light on my bicycle, which I’d never consider doing in my car. And I blow thru stop signs like they don’t exist. If it suits me, I’ll ride on the sidewalk in order to go a block or two in the wrong direction on a one way street. I justify all of those bad behaviors by pointing at riders who do worse things. But every time I do those things, I’m expanding the chasm between riders and non-riders.
The bottom line is that we shouldn’t be so excited about bikelash. Riders should start doing what they can to reduce it, rather than relishing in its existence or passing more laws to make it harder to share the road. Yes, three foot passing people. I’m not on board.
I do so love a revolution, however, I think we can get thru this social change without one. If we bike riders start behaving better, then drivers and pedestrians will look bad when they don’t do the same. Until then, get ready for a few more new words.