“The new separated bike lanes in Vancouver are fantastic. What used to be a stressful commute jockeying for position in traffic has become a relaxing, almost recreational jaunt. The only annoying thing is that the lane has incited the lolly-gagging dawdlers to ride their bikes downtown too. Annoying, but a small price to pay.”
This was a comment by a woman called Lucy. She was responding to an article in Macleans by Nancy Macdonald, “Divided they ride: Drivers ignore painted lanes for cyclists. Vancouver decided there was only one way to fix that problem.”
Great article, totally depressing comment.
It reminded me of an incident in Montreal, when Maggie and I rented Bixis and set out to enjoy Montreal’s separated bike lanes. We found ourselves on a long uphill, with no way of getting off. Bixis are not really built for climbing, and Maggie was still getting bike-fit. Eventually she was forced to stop, because she couldn’t breathe any more. We were caught between a brick wall and a busy road. So we flattened ourselves against the wall, doing our best to stay out of the way. There was ample room for cyclists to get by, and Maggie was clearly in physical distress – but that didn’t stop one cyclist from wrinkling her face into a disapproving prune and shaking her head at us.
Where’s the tolerance? Again, totally depressing incident.
The only way cycling will ever become mainstream, is if we show tolerance of differently-abled cyclists. There are a limited number of super-athletes in society. Most of us are just average cyclists. Some of us need electric bikes to keep up with the average pack. Or we need to go slower. Or stop and take a break sometimes.
Bottom line: we are ALL cyclists! We are all prepared to risk life and limb by going out on public roads on bicycles. We are all vulnerable together. So shouldn’t we stick together?
Besides which, why be mean to each other when we have a real enemy – that tiny percentage of motorists who hate us? Lucy sounds uncomfortably like those motorists who rant about cyclists because they slow down traffic:
“I’m sick of bikers getting in my way! Walk or take the bus!!!! WHY MUST YOU BIKE ON MAIN ROADS AND CLOG UP TRAFFIC???”
With people like that out there, shouldn’t we cyclists stick together, support each other, and simply be nice to each other – and save our annoyance for the real enemies, such as the ranting poster on Craig’s List who urges motorists to kill cyclists?
Mainly we are good to each other, even helpful and gentle with each other, as I have commented elsewhere. A couple of years after that nasty incident in Montreal, when Maggie started to commute to work by bike in Vancouver, she was overwhelmed by how kind other cyclists were towards her. This is such a good thing – if we support each other, our numbers will grow. And then we will become more visible, and all kinds of great things will follow. More infrastructure will be created for us. We will be less vulnerable to cars: less of us will be killed! For example, Europe has four times as many cyclists as North America, but the same level of cyclist fatalities (see my post, Copenhagen is a Paradise for Cyclists).
Does it really matter if some of those living, breathing cyclists are a little slower?
In fact, nothing makes me happier than to see an obviously new bike commuter, making his or her way nervously along the bike routes. Once I even saw a guy who had his wife waving at him encouragingly as he cautiously set off on his new bike. He was pretty embarrassed, but I just thought, “Welcome – one less car to kill me!”
My opinion: Let’s stick together, and be nice to each other, and support those who cycle more slowly. United we will ride, divided we could be mown down by motorists.
What do YOU think? Should we be more tolerant of slower cyclists?
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