As I’ve entered the cycling world and became a cyclist myself, one thing I’ve had to get used to is the amount of anger, dislike, and disregard centered around cyclists. All cyclists, and especially me, have learned to stay away from the comment section of stories about cyclists- whether it is a story about a hit and run, or a fatality, or biking infrastructure. Why? The amount of vitriol and hatred that is directed at cyclist in those comments makes me sick to my stomach. People say things like, “I want to run cyclists over when they get in my way,” “When they slow me down, I honk my horn at them to scare them out of my way,” “Cyclists deserve to get run over, they have no place on the road.” Those things sound like exaggerations, but they’re not. I’ve read multiple comments along those same lines. When I read things like that, first I feel sick, then I get angry, then I get scared- what’s to say that these commentators, or people feel similar, aren’t driving behind me and get so angry that I’m in their way, using “their” road that they decide to bump my back tire, or squeeze past me and “accidentally” hit me on the way by? Or, less life threatening but no less terrifying, yell something obscene at me or throw something out the window at me? I know these comments don’t represent the entire car driving population, but it only takes one angry driver to cause me to crash.
For me, there are two issues to address. One is that the road does not “belong” to anyone. Just because cars use the road the most and they are usually the biggest thing out there does not mean it is “their” road. The road is for everyone to use- everyone pays for the roads, everyone can use the roads. It’s true that those who own cars do have to pay special taxes associated with them- gas tax, licensing fees, etc. But most of that money goes towards interstates and state roads- most of which cyclist don’t (or can’t) use. The county and back roads that cyclists most often use are mostly paid for through general funds, which get their money through local, property and sales tax- things unrelated to automobiles and which everyone pays, no matter their mode of transportation. In addition, most roads don’t even pay for themselves at all- they don’t even break even when it comes to construction and upkeep. So they are constantly being subsidized. (For more information: Cyclists Ride on the Roads They Pay For, Bikes Pay for Roads Too, Actually, Highway Builders, Roads Don’t Pay for Themselves)
But my other point goes beyond numbers, money, even mode of transportation. It’s about the fact that I’m a HUMAN. Just like everyone else. Just like those driving in cars, just like the pedestrians crossing the street. The fact that I’m on two wheels and not encased in metal doesn’t make me less of a human than a person sitting in the car. I deserve respect and consideration just like anyone else- it shouldn’t matter whether I’m on two feet, two wheels, or four wheels. NO ONE deserves to be yelled at, harassed, threatened, spit on, bonked on the head, run over, called terrible names. It’s true that cyclists aren’t perfect. There are a lot of us who don’t follow all the road rules. And I know that can be frustrating to see. But please don’t hate all cyclists just because one ran a red light, or didn’t stop at a stop sign. Does every single motorists follow every single rule? No. Neither does every single cyclist. Yes, cyclists can be unpredictable and dangerous, but so can can motor vehicles. Everyone has the responsibility to remain diligent and alert, whatever mode of transportation they are using. Because the road will only be as safe as the people make it.
Next time you’re tempted to honk, rev, yell, or worse, at a cyclist, just imagine that it’s me on that bike. Or, if you don’t know me from Eve, imagine it’s your sister, or best friend, or significant other, or anyone else you know that rides a bike. Imagine how I (or that person), might feel about that honk, or yell, or profanity, or that pass which cuts a little too close and too fast for comfort. I just want to be able to ride my bike and not worry that my mere presence on the road will incite someone to cause me bodily harm. I’ll do my best not to act stupid or behave recklessly, and I’ll try my hardest to make sure I’m not unnecessarily impeding the journey of those in cars. But if I feel I need to take the whole lane because I’m scared that someone trying to pass me won’t have enough room and will knock against me, I’ll do it. Not because I hate cars and the people in them but because I have a right to the road too, and a right to feel safe on them.
When you see a cyclist, don’t just see the two wheels they’re riding on- see the person who is using their two feet to push their bike forward.