I have been given to some hyperbole at times. In my defense I moderate my most excessive opinions because even I know when I’m getting carried away. It’s nice when someone says these things for you though, especially when they put them in a way that makes them compelling.
Stephen Lead has given voice to these thoughts, and other more intelligent thoughts, at Ignite Sydney. He does it in a concise and humble way that makes his ideas all the more compelling. Whereas my rants my be dismissed as the ramblings of an ungrateful dickhead, his Notes From A Grateful Dickhead presentation is hard for anyone to disagree with. Well…anyone who isn’t rolling neck deep in their own blighted bigotry and hatred that is.
Attitudes toward cyclists make it possible to lead an article about an injured cyclists with discussions on whether he wore an helmet or for Family Fued to get ten top answers to the question, name something you hate about cyclists. Normalizing this hatred has, Stephen argues, made it more dangerous for cyclists. When talk about hating and killing cyclists becomes common, when turds like this guy feel like they can comment on my blog “Nothing of value was lost” when talking about the death of cyclists, when morons like Derryn Hinch and Michael Pascoe attack cycling, then we lose our rights to ride safely on the road. The way people drive is informed by their attitudes toward us. And if we’re dehumanized then they can drive like crazy turds and feel good about themselves.
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As Stephen demonstrates above, the forms of bigotry applied to cyclists are no longer unacceptable elsewhere. It’s strange that it’s okay to hate us so much, given how many people own bikes. In other words, many of the people hating us are or were also cyclists. Not many people were formerly gay or black (okay, cue the Michael Jackson joke, ho hum) but I doubt that if they were they could hate on themselves like cyclists do. These people who own bikes and sometimes ride them might tell you that they would ride more often but it isn’t safe out there. Later they’ll tell you a story about a cyclists who held them up in traffic and joke and dooring the prick.
I tend to fall into the category of ungrateful dickhead a bit too often. I’m super polite on the road and bike paths. If a car gives me even the slightest courtesy (for which I’m fully due under the road rules and should expect), I give them a friendly wave of thanks. I smile at pedestrians on shared paths and let them see that despite the rumours I’m not out to kill them. Where possible I indicate to cars they can proceed, I’ll slow down for them, let them pull out, cross an intersection, or some other small courtesy (which car drivers so rarely show each other). But then some dickhead does something really stupid, ignorant and dangerous. And then another does it. And probably another. And by then I’m thinking you can all go get fucked with your ineffectual road laws. I’m gonna cut lanes, cut you off, jump gutters, go the wrong way down streets…just whatever it takes to get from A to B quickly and safely. Try take my lane if you’re ready to fight over it. (In some ways I think this is a healthy survival mechanism. If I’m approaching a two lane roundabout crawling uphill, cars overtaking from behind, cars swooping in from my right, I’m a lame duck if I’m timid, but almost invincible once the wall of fuck-you has descended.)
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Still…I’m not that type of ungrateful dickhead. I love bike lanes. I’ll happily add a couple Ks onto a journey if it means gliding along on a bike path. I guess the kind of dickhead I am, when I’m in healthy dickhead mode, is this type of dickhead. Anyway, Stephen’s point about dickheads is a good one. It’s that dickheads exist in every form of life. They’re pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers. (And politicians.) For a driver to harp on about the guy he saw careening through downtown with no brakes (yeah, that’s you) and forget the guy in the ute getting it sideways in a suburban street is a little unfair. (My argument about dickheads goes a little further. A cyclist who is a dickhead is a dickhead only to himself. When was the last time a bicycle careened out of control and killed and maimed seven people.) Dickheads exist everywhere. But the majority of people are okay. Even cyclists.
Stephen says it better than me and he’s got some neat graphics. Watch his video and disseminate it. His explanations are well reasoned and eloquent. If we can get a few cartards to watch it and stop hating on us so much we might all be a little safer out there.