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Yesterday Salon ran the provocatively titled post, “Are urban cyclists just elite snobs?” (Read it.) In the wake of last week’s discussion about cyclists running red lights (comments are also well worth reading), it was good to see a story that hit on a lot of the issues that our commenters on both sides brought up.
To recap: bicyclists are far less dangerous than drivers, but there remains an image problem. And it’s tied up in a paradox. As Alex Baca wrote earlier this year, on one hand, bicycling is seen as an elitist form of transportation, partly because bike lanes and trendy fixies tend to show up when young, white newcomers do. On the other, actual facts remind us that bikes are an extremely common form of transportation for poor folks, immigrants trying to get to work, and kids who aren’t old enough to drive.
But back to that image problem: How to change it? While the “dangerous bicyclist” is a trope that probably won’t die any time soon, author Will Doig argues that riders need to step up: “If we want to improve the image of urban bicyclists, we need to start with ourselves.” As a relatively new bicycle commuter (who still owns a car and takes public transit occasionally), I say that sounds pretty smart.
Car domination isn’t going to be defeated by bragging about how great one’s commute was. Pedestrians aren’t going to be won over by cyclists who’ve decided to ride though a crosswalk with people in it because they see an opening. It may take a little longer to get where I’m going, but stopping at red lights and staying out of crosswalks does help with that “predictability” factor that keeps everyone on the road or sidewalk more calm.
At any rate, cyclists: Do you buy the argument that some of the burden for being a positive advertisement for bicycling is on you?
Photo by nevermindtheend via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License