Ever noticed how you work harder, pedal faster, and make smarter decisions when you feel you’re ahead? Or have you seen the way social advantage, particularly between religions and races, is carried down through the centuries? The human is not an instinctively charitable creature. Most of us thrive on seeing others lose while we win. It motivates us. If we’re a group, our numbers swell when we’re winning, and wane when we’re losing.
I think of this whenever an absence of bicycle infrastructure forces me to choose between the road and the footpath. If I choose the road, I make myself the slowest and weakest among others using that space. If I choose the footpath I make myself the fastest and strongest. By choosing the road I look strong among cyclists, but I make cycling, in general, look weak. I win. Cycling loses.
That betrayal is magnified by bicycling advocates, who purport to speak on behalf of all cyclists, but who accept the status quo by riding on roads. Whenever the general population is surveyed, we see that the overwhelming majority of people can ride a bike (and are therefore all cyclists), that nearly half own a bike (and so want to be regular cyclists), but that virtually nobody rides and the reason they state, is they are afraid of riding on roads. Bike advocates who accept the status quo, speak for themselves and their pride with a megaphone. And there’s a whiff of Stockholm Syndrome in the way they interact with planners and politicians, who all love a patsy.
If you’re a bike advocate whose “work” echoes your personal preference for roads over paths when you have a choice, you’re doing more harm than good. You make child cyclists look weak when you don’t choose routes the way they do. You aught to show some solidarity with old lady cyclists, and ride where they would ride, if you showed them by example that it was fine to ride on the footpath.
If you put bicycle transport ahead of your pride, and your infatuation with people in power, you would steer it toward a winning position, where it would thrive. You would stop begging for a safe allotment of road, and make pedestrians beg for a safe allotment of footpath—or you could just tell pedestrians they aught to wear day glow*. There’s no pride in victim blaming, I know. But who said advancing cycling was going to be noble? Just look at the inglorious rise of the car!
I will not join Cycling Tasmania in pleading for car driver’s clemency at this rally on Saturday. And I would sooner wear a star of david on my arm than sign whatever “code of conduct” they have in mind.