You Are (Probably) a Jackass
Or: Why You Should Chill About Cyclists
One of the great sentiments to yell at innocent passerby whilst one drives past in a motor vehicle is, “HEY, GET A BIKE.” The sentence represents a simple perfection of the English language due to it’s ability to exclaim something, create a directive, make a clear call to action, and foster abject confusion for the bipedal recipient. Originating from the minds of a few of my high school friends, “Get a bike” has been hoisted onto the ears of many a speed-walker, casual night stroller, and equestrian enthusiast that had the misfortune of traveling the same path as us. The simplicity of the message, paired with the vociferousness of it’s deployment creates the apex of road-sidewalk interaction. Now, we utilized this statement ad nauseam, but few of us truly supported the message it sent. We might be demanding that these unsuspecting folks find themselves a bicycle on which to move from Point A to Point B, but if my friends were to genuinely see a person riding a bike, the chances that they were happy about it were slim to none (despite the occasional, “Hey, NICE BIKE.”). Sadly, this sort of general disdain for bike riders seems to be an all-too common refrain.
Much more hip and trendy than any sort of fixed-gear, single-speed, straight-handle bar bicycle, is the prevailing attitude in damn near every conversation I’ve ever had about bikes and their riders: “Bikes are annoying,” “If you want to be a car, act like a car,” “Why don’t you just use the sidewalk.” Or maybe the more diplomatic, “I don’t mind bikes, but why do they have to ride in the MIDDLE of the road?” “Plenty of respect for the idea of biking, but there’s a time and place.” Lest, I mislead you, dear reader, two of those are direct quotes from my mouth. My hands are anything but clean when it comes to the chastising of bicyclists. But, and this is important, I got over myself and you should too. What follows will be a clear, logically impenetrable, fairly concise explanation of why biking in the city is okay, why bikers don’t suck, and how re-calibrating your view of bicycling will aid you in the very important task of not being a dick. Bear with me so that I might justify what has so far been one epic subtweet.
Bikers Are Friends, Not Food
When the topic of commuting bicyclists are brought up at a gathering of any sort, be it dinner parties, happy hours, or barbecues, the tone quickly slips into one of unabashed derision and incredulity, usually reserved for the conversations that people with brains have about a Donald Trump presidency. The error here is that these bikers are regular folks who are utilizing a piece of machinery to move from destination to destination. At a fundamental level (the fundamental being traveling between two points, for our slower students) bikers have set out to achieve the same thing as those riding a bus, driving a car, or even *gasp* walking. To that end, cyclists are regular folks who are trying to get home after a day at the office, just like you are. For any number of reasons, they chose to ride a bike rather than putter along in an Accord. Maybe the biker you are so annoyed with is riding to maintain a healthy heart because they lost their father at an early age to a heart attack. Perhaps they are on a tight budget and their apartment complex charges an extra $150/month for parking. Maybe they don’t have the time or money to go to the gym, and this allows them to maintain a basic level of physical activity. The fact of the matter is, you don’t know why people are riding bikes, and like many other things, if we took the time to understand the stories and motivations of people, we probably would take a chill pill about whatever it is that upset us.
In case some of you didn’t know: AMERICANS ARE SUPER DUPER FAT. Now, this topic is quite complex and has more to do with the fact that the United States subsidizes food that is bad for us at a higher rate than food that is good for us, meaning that the most accessible and cheap food in our country is likely going to be as unhealthy as it is affordable. Therefore, the most vulnerable and impoverished among us are likely to be less healthy, and incur higher medical costs (if you don’t believe that then A) Google exists, look it up and B) Screw you). I say that only to make the point that being overweight is not the “choice” that we often think it to be; there is a deep complexity interwoven into the obesity stats of (most) Americans. What is not complex at all is that riding a bike a couple of times a week will decrease the likelihood that you are unhealthy. If a person has that choice, and makes it, that’s a net positive for the rest of us. They don’t deserve a pat on the back, but they certainly don’t deserve to have Rick and Joe talking shit about them while those two Butterballs hover over the grill, turning brats with their Vienna sausage fingers and pot-bellies. I want to encourage folks to achieve higher health outcomes. I want to see less Rascal scooters put to use at grocery stores. I want less people buying two seats for one body on an airplane. If biking is a means to those ends, I want bikes to be supported and drivers to deal with it.
The next logical argument to make here is about the environment. It will be succinct because the overwhelming scientific evidence allows for that.
- The globe is heating up at an unnaturally fast rate. I highlight unnaturally for you buffoons who choose to say idiotic drivel like “The world has gotten hot before.” Shut up. End of story.
- Cars are one of many things humans use that contribute to a degraded Earth.
- Bikes don’t heat up the Earth like cars do.
- Humans need the Earth to not be super hot, the oceans not to be acidic, and New York City to not be underwater.
- Using a bike can be, at the very least, an acknowledgment of the danger of global warming, and acknowledging it (no matter how big or small your actual impact) is important.
If you disagree with any of the above, and I mean anything, feel free to never speak with me again. Name one other scientific certainty that you (or anyone with a brain) argues with and I will show you a slap in the face because why are we still talking about this its not something that needs to be debated its been decided and you’re not a scientist so stop talking.
Bicycles are good for the Earth and good for human health. People who bike have any number of reasons for doing so. These are not groundbreaking defenses of why we should all lay off of cyclists. But the most important point is this:
When you are behind a cyclist and have to slow down, that inconveniences you for how long? 30 seconds? 2 minutes? I have a news flash for you my friend: You are not that important. There is nothing you do that is so important that losing 2 minutes of your time justifies how worked up you are. I’m big on “words to live by”. I believe that a good motto is an important part of every person’s life, and if you can identify two or three that apply to various situations, your life will improve. Recently, I have decided that perhaps the most important motto a person can reflect on each and every day to improve their lives, and the lives of those around them is “Get over yourself.” It applies so deeply and so uniformly to people everywhere. Perhaps nowhere is it more pertinent than in the reactions of drivers to cyclists. Get over yourself. Whatever you are worked up about, there is no need for it. More than likely you are projecting personal dissatisfaction with your own physical activities onto the biker. Or perhaps greatly overvaluing your own time. If you are running late and a biker is hampering your process, you probably are late because you watched one too many Netflix episodes before getting ready to leave the house. Not only that, but you are probably overstating the value of your punctuality. Unless Oprah is waiting for you, the person expecting you at exactly 5:15pm can get over themselves as well. Punctuality is admirable and important, and blah blah blah. I get it. But also, get over yourself.
But, but, but…some bikers are actually rude, you say. Some of them wear ungodly amounts of skintight spandex on bodies that spandex does no favors for. Some of these cyclists think they own the road; that stoplights and traffic lanes don’t apply to them. You have no argument from me. The case you are making is that some bikers are d-bags. Indeed. A gold star for Johnny Observation. The case has not been, and cannot be, made that everyone who straddles the saddle is going to be a “good guy.” Plenty of people who eat granola and value the Earth suck a whole lot. But the mechanism causing their a-holiness is not their use of a two-wheeled transportation device. No, friends, in much the same way that the unfortunate souls who own a PT Cruiser do not represent all drivers, not all spandex junkies who ride down the middle of the road represent all bikers. There are bad apples in every bunch. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, or whatever. So the next time you are stuck behind a Birkenstock-clad, reusable grocery bag-toting, bicycling feminist, take a deep breath, and get over yourself.