I always read this every time I see some stupid story about someone doing a stupid thing on a bike.
"This is why motorists hate us" - "He is making it harder for all of us" - "If he gets killed it will be his fault" and the worst one in my opinion "There goes one for the Darwin awards".
Let me introduce 3 ideas for you to soak in before you read on:
- As a kid - did you ever do anything stupid?
- As a motorist - have you ever broken a law?
- As a human being - have you ever reported a car breaking the law?
I used to be the worst sort of bike rider. You moved out of line in the bunch "hey - hold your line" (ok - that one i still do). "Where is your flaming Helmet!" was a favorite. So was "You just ran a red light, don't you know the law."
Known for my holy-than-thou attitude I was forever beating my chest about how bad every other cyclist was on the road - oh, and don't get me started on the Ninjas that ride in black without lights at night, or the compulsive yeller who tells everyone off but himself.
I never did wrong (or so I told myself), so it was a feeling of self-righteous indignation that I used to complain about the 'other riders' on the road that 'give us all a bad name'.
But during my years of not riding, not once did I ever accuse all bike riders of the actions of a few. In fact as a member of the human race, I try my best not to generalise. I try not describe any racial or religious group as - 'Those guys are all x'. I don't say all X's are racists, I just don't like to judge groups by the acts of a few of their members.
But yet as a bike rider, I seem to not only be dictated by the actions of a few, I seem to allow myself to be tarred with the same brush. I actively look for ways to say "It's these cyclists" or "These bike riders" and it is always in connection to why people hate us.
Let me breathe a tip of truth into your life.
People hate... for unknown and unreasonable reasons, people will hate bike riders.
People generalise things they hate - and that is why we have racism and attacks on minority groups.
People attack what they don't understand.
So here is a generalisation for you, those people that want to hate on cycling, it doesn't matter what the reason is, they will hate on cycling.
Some will actually claim to support cycling, but when confronted with a logical discussion, they will turn it around to attack it any way they can.
As a Kid
As a child, I never did the right thing - growing up in a country town with a mere 3000 people, riding was the only way to get around (unless you could be bothered walking) and from the age of 6 I was riding to my best mates place before and after school.
- What's a light?
- What do you mean stay on the left?
- It's a foot path and I'm using my feet to pedal.
- Let me leave my bike right here!
- No, I didn't notice my bike was blocking your shop door.
Hell, as a child we used to get up to so much, and then blame our youth. Oh the fun we had, the lost 'bark' on knees just gives me stories for my kids and the scars on my arms show a youth well spent. I have broken more ribs as a kid than I have eaten as an adult. Kids today don't get to have as much fun, we wrap them up in cotton wool and tell them to play inside where it is safe.
So, what's my point, I am making it look pretty bleak out there. You would think that reading a very biased piece from me, but you would be wrong. The truth is that those with the belief everyone hates them are the bleak. In reality most people support riding, they either know someone that rides or ride themselves. They may have a bias towards a certain dress code but they are all for riding. Millions of Australians ride a bike at least once a year, hundreds of thousands ride every week. Mode share is increasing... Let's stop this lie that other riders represent how you ride.
I have representation with certain organisations when I ride, drive and even walk. One of those companies is the RACV. I have been a member of the RACV since 1993, and I have had roadside assistance until this year. I am yet to see the RACV, NRMA or any other motoring company in the World apologise for cars running red lights. In fact we have seen these organisation defend and fight for their members when speed cameras were put under the microscope.
So how come they don't think we are all speeding drivers that jump red lights? In research conducted by Monash University and in documentaion from the AAMI index of 2009 - 5% of motorists run red lights and a massive 25% of drivers were booked for speeding. So - does that make all drivers red-light running speedsters? One would hope not, but yet we are left with the burning desire to accept blame for every rider that breaks the law. Why?
As a human being
We need to accept that people will hate what we do, we know there are people in this world that just want to pick on those different from them. We call them names, accuse them of belonging to certain groups. We tell them they are fools, and we treat them with the same disrespect as they give to us. Some of those that hate cyclists have no reason, they are just jealous.
Don't take it personally, don't retaliate on the road, and don't jump up and down how you saw a bike rider breaking the law unless you are prepared to record every jay-walker, every redlight running car driver, every tailgating truck. Because unless you are prepared to call out on every other road user, you are not helping the problem - you are adding to it.
Haters will hate, we will have the last laugh, as people that have a lot of hate in their lives die younger.
Don't perpetuate the lie, shut it down. If you ride with in the law, just say that. Stand up and say -
"This rider does not represent me."
--Last point to make, when researching this piece, I found hundreds of posts with the search 'its riders like these' - most of them were about Motorcycle riders, have you ever thought that one type of motorcycle rider represents all motorcycle riders?
A great ABC Catalyst report to watch is this one on iView: