02

Blog

Social Media and Bicycle Advocacy

Polarization, victim-blaming, and incivility among cyclists is hurting us and our cause.

Outrage. 

It is what drives action and engagement on the interwebs these days. If it’s not outrageous, it’s boring. The Election of 2018 proved that outrage increases TOS (“time on site”) more than friendship, sympathy, desire, or anything else. 

Judgment.

By definition it is necessary to reach any conclusion about anything. But passing it on to others through virtue signaling does what exactly? (“I’m on a mission to save the planet… I’ve booked a commercial flight to go run a marathon up north then another to deliver winter running clothes to the impoverished in Cuba.” Oh, ok. )

Opinion.

Like perspective, we’ve all got one (about everything) and it’s not dependent upon factual findings. Often times, these guys only have power when coupled with their equally as potentially suffocating counterpart, oversensitivity.

Polarization.

Newton explained this long before we had the added pleasure of oversharing, overstating, over indulging, and overreacting to the stuff we find, share, promote, amplify, support, protest on the internet. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Here we are. It’s 2019 and things have never been so extreme.

A couple months ago, while stopped at a gas station during my bike ride, I had a gentleman cyclist tell me very definitively that rolling through stop signs on a bicycle is never safe, no matter what the law (Damn you, Idaho, Delaware, Arkansas! Why would a 14% decrease in bicycle crash injuries and a 30% increase in overall bike safety be incentivizing at all?!). I can only conclude based on his confidence in his proclamation that he believed himself to be an expert, and therefore believed I should consider him as such, too. I politely listened to his incongruous (and counterfactual) explanation and I never did tell him his helmet was on backwards.

On more occasions than I can count, middle aged men (and on one occasion a slightly younger than middle aged woman) felt the need to point out the too-highness or too-lowness or too-slammedness of my seat post and stem. I, myself, am certainly no expert (at anything), so perhaps they are all correct. Maybe these people ride their perfectly fitted bicycles around their respective cities and towns handing out citations for the geometric infractions committed by their fellow (and less or more aerodynamic) cyclists. And maybe they rush to the notice board advertising piano lessons at their local YMCA screaming, “I don’t want any piano lessons!!!!!!” Yeah, it’s out there for you to see. But unless I’ve slid it into your DMs (or the Director of your local Y knocks on your door with a Steinway upright) you can bet it wasn’t directed at you or even posted with you specifically in mind. (Did that offend you?)

I would never approach a stranger at the grocery store and rifle through the contents of their cart, pointing out how much healthier or skinnier they’d be without the cheese doodles and cola. And I would be taken aback if someone else did that to me. Quite frankly, I find it to be really awkward when the cashier verbally rings up my groceries (“…beep! Quinoa…beep! dental floss…beep! oreos- oh, did you see that these are buy one get another package half off?…”) or asks me questions about my personal pharmacy items. It feels invasive. So why do it online? Does the keyboard really make us feel like warriors? Yuck.

And even more so, I think we’ve reached a point (because of generally positive and necessary technological advancements and the availability of platforms like social media) where we, myself included, have a tendency to behave badly when the best course of action is just to mind our own business. This can be complicated and difficult because, at least as far as social media is concerned, we share stuff looking for a response or reaction. The bigger, the better. The number of likes (or varying degrees of such), followers, comments, shares, etc., become the metrics we use to measure our success, or self worth, or value in cyber space and even in real life. Yuck again. 

We are pretty successfully solidifying a culture in which everyone gets a trophy just for showing up; where failure is avoided at all costs and circumvented with cheating, lying, exaggerating, spinning, or simply acting as if the hiccups and challenges that are an important part of a healthy, balanced life do not exist; where the more you’re loved, the more you’re hated; where the need to prove we’re right is more important than the need for peace, or compromise, or understanding, or acceptance, or forward motion; where we feel it is our duty to impose our every opinion about any and everything upon people we will probably never meet, trolling the web for an opportunity to argue about all kinds of stuff, much of which we really know relatively little about. 

We should listen more and talk a lot less. Maybe we’d learn something new.

In the bike advocacy world, these things are on the juice. The cycle doesn’t necessarily start with us, but it certainly could end with us. Here are some unarguable facts that might help to clear a few things up: (These aren’t my opinions. They’re like, science and stuff.)

  1. The Earth is not flat.
  2. College isn’t for everyone.
  3. Inclusive infrastructure does increase cycling safety when engineered and implemented thoughtfully.
  4. Just because you can (physically or legally) doesn’t mean you should.
  5. Helmet usage increases your safety (on a bike, stepping out of the shower, cleaning your gutters, and operating a motor vehicle). They do not, however, protect your face, neck, or body in any of these situations or stop your brain from exploding like a cooked pear in a mason jar that’s been shaken if the impact to your head is great enough.
  6. Our political climate has a direct impact on the culture of cycling, the polarization within our community, and hampered success as advocates.
  7. There are way more good cops than bad ones.
  8. There are way more good truck drivers than bad ones.
  9. Having money doesn’t make you an asshole.
  10. Life is a hell of a lot harder in every single way when you don’t have any or enough.

I posted an article with an embedded video yesterday showing police officers responding to a call from a neighborhood resident complaining about a 14 year old girl riding her bike on his lawn. According to the article and as is partially captured in the video, three officers responded to the call, handcuffed the girl, accused her of riding a stolen bicycle, demanded identification, pushed her and her 15 year old brother who rushed to her against the patrol car, then forcibly threw her to the ground (while handcuffed).

Video shows North Little Rock officer throwing 14-year-old girl to ground after bicycle complaint

The kids are black. So are two of the three cops. Many of the comments that followed were nothing short of nonsense. The kids “reap[ed] what they sow[ed],” “…this had nothing to do with being black. Some of the cops are black!” “FTP,” and on, and on, and on. Was it a bike post? A race post? A political post? The biggest news flash is that it’s all of these things and none of them at the same time. 

It’s a cry for help.

We victim-blame our very own (and we do it inside an echo chamber where all the anti-bike folks can’t even pull up a seat with their popcorn and watch us go for each others’ jugulars). We point fingers, publicly shame and humiliate, criticize, name call, and worse. And we’re dying in record numbers. For all you middle aged males out there (and no, I’m not a man hater. In fact, there’s a few I find to be particularly glorious: Bruno Mars, Colin Firth, LeBron James, Bradley Cooper, and the late Michael Hutchence all run a close collective second to Peter, IMHO), you’re the demographic most likely to suffer a bicycle crash fatality.

Of the 25 million Americans that will ride a bike this year, how many have a racing license? Our sport is on life support. Less of us that enjoyed racing are enjoying or racing. Fewer kids ride bikes. That’s cycling’s future turning their backs on the bicycle. (I posted about that too and the same outrage ensued.)

And for all the tariff naysayers (that a 25% increase on tariffs on the least expensive bikes would somehow not negatively impact youth ridership) who solely blame screen time and video games, the irony is that but for your own personal screen time, the opportunity to tell me that the Wall Street Journal and Forbes are wrong would never have presented itself.

But it doesn’t have to be this way and we can certainly do our part to return some dignity and elegance to this thing we do that happens to be the common thread weaving us all together and the fastest way to save the world. 

Most importantly, we can circle back to the humanity and freedom found in cycling and share that with the rest of the world so that maybe, just maybe, we can all take the leap out of second class citizenship and into a position of leadership, thereby growing our community in an inclusive way, and with it, the greatest predictor of bicycle safety.

But it starts here, now, on social media.

Rachael Maney Bike Law

 

Comments

Fairhope Bike Shop
Peter Wilborn Sep 16, 2019

Katie Bolton and her husband Joseph are the proud owners of Fairhope Cycle and Tri in Fairhope, Alabama – the eastern shore.  Their shop has been open for 8 years now and in addition to selling and servicing bicycles, the shop often is a “hub” for cycling events in the Fairhope area.   Katie grew up in […]

Read More
Rick Bernardi Sep 13, 2019

Stop as Yield. It was the legislative Holy Grail for Oregon cyclists. Idaho had pioneered the Stop As Yield concept—allowing cyclists to treat a stop sign as if it’s a yield sign—in 1982, and for decades, Idaho remained the only state where Stop as Yield was legal for cyclists, despite the actual practice being widespread, […]

Read More
Peter Wilborn Aug 20, 2019

A camera is necessary kit for every ride. But finding the right camera has been a challenge, until now. My rebuttable presumption: the Ricoh GR III is the best cycling camera of all time. Read on, and if you can prove there’s a better one, let me know. The Ideal Cycling Camera To find the […]

Read More
Human Shield Bike Lane
Bruce Hagen Jul 29, 2019

If you ride bikes around Atlanta, chances are that you know Niklas Vollmer and Andreas Wolfe.  They’re some of the many people in town who seem to live on their bikes and can be seen riding everywhere.  While they both have their “day jobs,” folks in the cycling world know them for their place in […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Jul 19, 2019

This is a time when advocacy efforts are crucial to making our streets safer for everyone. Within 24 hours from the Two Wheel Tuesday gathering we suffered two more casualties.  On Wednesday morning, Marten Bijvank was on his way to work on his bicycle when he was struck and killed by an unlicensed DUI driver […]

Read More
AJ's Bicycle Shop in Iowa
Jim Freeman Jul 15, 2019

Bicycling Magazine recently published an article titled, “Hey, Bike Shops; Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage.”  The story follows a heavy-set 59 year old’s sad tale of how he was treated poorly from a number of local bike shops.   First and foremost, I would be clear that bikes are for almost everyone.  If you are big, […]

Read More
Bike accident scene
Rick Bernardi Jul 12, 2019

The big bike news out of the Oregon legislature this year was the passage of a Stop as Yield law. This was an enormous legislative victory for Oregon cyclists, the culmination of over a decade of advocacy. But it wasn’t the only legislative victory for Oregon cyclists this legislative session. A less glamorous but equally […]

Read More
Uber Biking Escort
Charlie Thomas Jul 11, 2019

I often find myself wanting to ride on a roadway corridor that doesn’t want me there. At best, I could make it across alive with some close calls and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. At worst, I wouldn’t be around to write this blog post.  Of course, a safer, alternate route […]

Read More
Cycling Without Age Bike Law
Brian Weiss Jul 11, 2019

The founder of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team loves his life on two wheels. Gary Harty was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and raised in Colorado – Denver Metro area, and now makes bicycling in Lakewood, Colorado safe and fun.  Gary is part of the baby boomer generation. He attended Colorado State University (CSU) and […]

Read More
Rachael Maney Bike Law
Rachael Maney Jul 10, 2019

Outrage.  It is what drives action and engagement on the interwebs these days. If it’s not outrageous, it’s boring. The Election of 2018 proved that outrage increases TOS (“time on site”) more than friendship, sympathy, desire, or anything else.  Judgment. By definition it is necessary to reach any conclusion about anything. But passing it on […]

Read More
Stop as Yield for Cyclists
Rick Bernardi Jul 09, 2019

The Oregon Legislature made national news this past week, for all the wrong reasons. The State Senate, with a super-majority of Democrats in control, had been working on climate legislation which would have Oregon join a cap-and-trade market with California and Quebec. Unable to stop the legislation, Republican Senators fled the state en masse, preventing […]

Read More
Bike Law Alps
Charlie Thomas Jul 07, 2019

It’s Tour de France time. I follow the racing daily through the footage on TV feed and still photos. But I hadn’t ever considered what’s happening on the other side of the camera lens. Like, what actually goes into snapping these pictures that we see documenting the Tour’s happenings? I started to care more about […]

Read More
Load More