Tuesday, September 16, 2008

When did it become us vs. them?

While searching Google News for something interesting to read, I came across an article from Fort Collins, Colorado. They have installed bike friendly sensors at their stop lights. My first thought was to post a "we need this in Columbus" type of post. After all, I can wait to turn left at the light at Kenny and Treemont every day. I'll admit it, I typically run that red light because it does not know I am there.

When I read the article, I was not expecting the negative comments. I expect them whenever a bicyclist complains about drivers. "We'll respect bikes as soon as the follow the rules of the road." Yeah, we have all heard it. There is nothing new there. I expect the negative comments whenever a cyclist is injured (or killed) by a car. "Roads are for cars. Take your toys on the sidewalk."

Cyclists respond in the familiar way. We say, "Laws are on our side," or "You can easily kill us with a single mistake." This argument is played out whenever the word "bicycle" finds its way into any article.

It's the same argument over and over. I grew tired of it a while back and excused myself from all discussions. To be frank, I have no idea why the negative comments in the article caught me off guard.

Why does it have to be this way?

Last weekend I was stopped at a stoplight in a small town. A guy in a pick-up truck pulled up next to me and said, "Pedal your ass right out of town city boy."

A few weeks ago, a guy in a dump truck told me, "I could run you over and never notice."

What encourages people make comments like that to a complete stranger?

A while back, I was passed with inches to spare. Then, the same driver stopped for a group of geese in the road. The driver waited until all geese were out of the road before passing.

Why do geese get more courtesy than a human being?

Why does it have to be us vs. them?

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acline said...

Why? Here's a possibility: Because we represent a threat to a way of life. Now, I think that threat is an illusion. But I think some people see a bike and think: "I'm not going there, and you can't make me." They assume we want to make them.

Another possible reason: In SW Missouri we have a problem in that many people who make low hourly wages live in rural areas and work in towns. They drive big trucks and are stuck with long commutes. It may be that cyclists represent a form of privilege to them.

Offered FWIW. I could be totally wrong.

Bob said...

The us against them mentality has been ingrained in the American public for years. Even though we are suppose to be the land of the free, look at the political or religious views of many people.

They believe you are either for us or against us and it starts in the leadership of this country.

Republican vs. Democrat, Pro Choice vs. Pro Life, and the list goes on and on.

Raindrop Cooperative Preschool said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly said...

Thank you for these thoughts.

I live in a rather un-bike friendly place. But I don't want to be an "us vs. them" person, and that includes not talking down about car drivers and not having snarky stickers about how I bike and don't have to pay for gas, etc. I'm not saying it's wrong to display those stickers, I'm just saying I am mindful of the smugness and don't want to go there.

I liked what acline said, specifically about privilege. I have sometimes wondered if my choice to bike (especially with the kids on the back of my Xtracycle) looks like privilege in some way that incites others to annoyance.

I truly hope my biking choices inspire others. I want to represent a good cyclist, too. I do my best. If others hate me for cycling or screwing up or putting them off in some way, I can't control that. But I don't want to be a Hater back, either.

Gwydion said...

In Annapolis, we started wearing a jersey-type shirt that says "Bike Commuter" written on the back. While it hasn't prevented all the drivers from being annoyances, we have seen an increase of respect from them. Since there are a ton of bike paths around the area, it seems they think we shouldn't be on the roads for joyriding. Now that they know we aren't joyriding, it seems to help alleviate their frustrations.
My $0.02 anyway.

Smudgemo said...

They are probably pissed that they are stuck driving and paying for fuel. I would be. Thankfully my area is very bike-tolerant. I've had run-ins, but not often.