Sightline’s reluctant cyclist checking in here—although I might have to take “reluctant” out of my title: over a month into my cycling adventures and I can count the days I haven’t been on my bike on one hand.
Drivers and cyclists alike probably noticed that today is National Bike to Work Day. (I’m still coming down from the caffeine buzz of slurping down three cups of free coffee provided to bike-commuters on my ride into the office.) It was great to see so many folks on the road.
Of course, such a massive event doesn’t come without backlash. Across the blogosphere, Bike to Work Day posts will draw heat from drivers and worked-up cyclists alike (maybe they had too much coffee, too?). For example, check out Danny Westneat’s excellent piece on bikelash at the Seattle Times, and its comments.
Personally, I haven’t encountered much ill-will from drivers on the road yet—the only time I’ve exchanged words was when a driver stopped to compliment me on my hand signals—but I have had my fair share of close calls with cars.
I’ll be honest: I can see where animosity comes from on the side of bikers. Every time a distracted driver (I’m talking to you, Mr. Dog-On-My-Lap-While-Talking-On-Phone) zigs when they should zag, or rolls into a bike lane without looking, I get hot under the collar. After all, it’s my life they’re putting on the line.
But I can sympathize with drivers, too. Bikes are often unexpected, sometimes hard to see, and slower-moving. Frustrating? Perhaps. But cause for anger? That seems excessive.
No doubt rhetoric exacerbates the problem. Witness the imaginary “War on Cars” that crops up semi-frequently in the media. Or news stories cataloging drivers’ complaints when a bike lane gets added to their street. And no anti-bike conversation would be complete without the Tale of the Scofflaw Cyclist. (FWIW, I think complaints of errant cyclists are overblown—for every reckless biker I can spot at least one car making similar transgressions.)
Unfortunately, the burden of acceptance falls on us bikers; such is the story of any change to the status quo. Riding predictably, establishing well-known bikeways, and obeying the law are all a given. But, at least in my eyes, getting more riders on the road is the most important factor. Witness today: Bike to Work Day draws thousands inspiring people to ride, knowing they’ll be surrounded by kindred spirits (all the free stuff certainly helps, too).
Recently, we’ve written about some of the demographics of cycling. There are some surprises to be sure—like biking might not be as white and rich as you think, and ladies, where are you? I think those numbers give us some clues as to what’s working. The next challenge is to figure out what’s broken and how we can fix it.
So, dear readers, what do you think we can do to get more “reluctant cyclists” out on the road?