I read a story this morning out of suburban Indianapolis about a bicyclist who attacked a motorist in a roundabout. There’s no excuse for this sort of garbage. You just don’t do it…not ever. There are too many reasons to mention, not the least of which is self-preservation. The motorist has a significant size advantage.
That said, I have the feeling we’re only hearing one side of the story here. It’s possible that the motorist just maybe might have used her car as a weapon to squeeze the cyclist in the roundabout and “forgot” to mention that to the reporter. I only say this because it has happened to me many, many times. It’s usually not a judgement error on their part, either. I make eye contact. They smirk back. They know what they’re doing. I don’t know if that was the case here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was.
Some cyclists are jerks. I run into them from time to time. You probably do, too. They terrorize pedestrians and slow moving families along multi use trails. They ignore traffic signals and laws, putting themselves and others in harm’s way. Most are male. Some are not. Many appear to have an epic chip on their shoulder. They act in a manner as arrogant and entitled as any motorist ever.
Roughly 90% of the US population never gets on a bicycle, so when something like this happens it feeds a very ugly stereotype about bicyclists that many non-cyclists are already predisposed to believe. That’s why it’s newsworthy. Never mind that most of us are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. This is what sticks with the general public. This is our image and it’s ugly.
Like it or not, every time we get on a bike we become ambassadors of bicycling. We can win people over to our way of thinking or we can cause them to dig in their heels and fight us. When they fight us, some of us are going to end up getting run over. That’s how important this is.
It’s not enough just to cycle. We have to cycle in a way that encourages other people to show us the respect we deserve. That means being friendly and courteous and following the laws. It doesn’t mean rolling over and letting them run roughshod over us, but it does mean slowing down when conditions warrant, especially around the elderly, children and people with dogs. It means smiling even when we don’t feel like smiling. These are little things but I think they are necessary if we’re going to win the battle for hearts and minds. That’s a battle we absolutely must win.