An Opinion Worth Sharing?
It has been one of those weeks when it feels like everyone has felt the need to share their opinions about my cycling with me.
It started with the school run by cargo bike.
Two taxi drivers have felt the need to point at me and shake their heads. I am not sure why. I wasn’t interfering with their journeys in any way as I rode along the cycle path. Perhaps they felt that I too should be queuing in the gridlocked traffic. I have to say that I doubt it – the majority of taxi drivers I interact with show no hesitation in expressing their dislike of sharing roads (with anyone).
Then a man yelled at me from the open window of his car, informing me that my two children were too big to be travelling by cargo bike. To a degree I agree with him. Ideally I would like my seven year old to be riding his own bike to school. He did so while the cargo bike was broken. It was fine, but the parked cars along the cycle lanes and the attitudes of some of the school run / rush hour drivers made it a very stressful experience. I find it less stressful when I am in control of dealing with the traffic. Plus he likes to read on the way to school and reading and cycling at the same time is never a good idea. The cargo bike works for us, for now and I wasn’t aware that this choice was anyone else’s business.
Today I was volunteering at Let’s Ride Edinburgh. This was a great day, despite summer having left us again. Around 7500 people came along to enjoy cycling on the closed roads and the bike-related activities in the Meadows. There were people of all shapes and sizes on bikes and it was fantastic to see so many children loving the freedom to ride their bikes in safety. It was also amazing to see at least four cargo bikes there.
Like I say, a brilliant day.
But an incident from very early on in the day has stayed with me.
Like all the other volunteers, I was in the Meadows by 8:30am for a briefing. It was around that time that a man drove his car past the site. As he drove, he slowed down to scream out of the window, “F***ing cyclists, I hate the f***ing lot of you, f*** you all….” (he went on for quite a bit longer, but you get the idea).
Clearly an angry man.
This has stayed with me because I cannot shake the thought that this angry, hate-filled man is out there, armed with a car, on the roads we all have to share.
I just do not understand what motivates these people to direct their ill-informed opinions, and worse – their hatred – towards people who choose to travel by bike. Would they be less angry if I chose to travel by car? If they were stuck behind me in a traffic jam caused by the sheer volume of traffic on the roads?
I dislike the fact that there are so many cars on the roads. I dislike the fact that some people choose to drive everywhere with no consideration of the impact this has. I dislike the prevailing attitude of ‘car is king’. I dislike the cars parked on bike paths and pavements.
But I don’t hate drivers. That would be absurd.
‘Drivers’ are not a group of identical people. There are considerate drivers and inconsiderate drivers. There are those who drive because they have to and those who drive because they want to. There are those who drive once in a while and those who drive everywhere. There are drivers – like me – who also ride bikes. There is no such group as ‘drivers’. There are people driving.
I call myself a cyclist because I find no offence in the term – in fact I consider it to be something which defines me. Rightly or wrongly, I feel a degree of affinity with anyone else I see on a bike. It’s an affinity which means I smile and wave at others on bikes and am disappointed if they don’t smile and wave back.
But I don’t think that everyone on a bike is just like me.
‘Cyclists’ are not a group of identical people. There are considerate cyclists and inconsiderate cyclists. There are those who cycle because they have to and those who cycle because they want to. There are those who cycle once in a while and those who cycle everywhere. There are cyclists – like me – who also drive cars. There is no such group as ‘cyclists’. There are people cycling.
I will not stop cycling, because cycling is important to me and I do nobody any harm through my cycling. I will continue to encourage and enable others who want to cycle to do so. I will continue to wave at other people on bikes even when they don’t wave back.
And I hope I will know when I should keep my opinions to myself.