First and foremost I would like to commend you on all of your current and ongoing efforts to not only get more butts on bikes. but to press for change in our urban infrastructure to make cycling in the city a more feasible task. You are going about promoting change in all the correct ways bike advocate. There has been no push for violent and aggressive behavior to fellow motorists to get a point across. You go to city council meetings in large groups and speak your mind to the people who are able to put these plans into action.You are a fantastic example of working for something you believe in. I cannot find a single thing wrong with your concerns and prospects for the future bike advocate. That being said, a wave of reality has swept over me and what remains is the skeptic/ cynic who loves to balance out an argument whether it be for better or worse.
The sad truth remains that the longer someone pays attention to what is happening in the world of bikes (whether it be at a competitive or commuter level) the sooner that someone will come across stories of bodily injury fueled by anger, inebriation, or ignorance. Just the same as the select few that have a predisposition towards a particular race, gender, or dietary choice, so do Los Angeles drivers and their vehicular privileges. People who ride bikes will either fall or get hit by someone else, (that comes with the territory of living in a congested major metropolitan area.) Driving a car gives the driver a sense of power and entitlement. Once those tires get rolling, whether it be big or small, most of us believe that we are the kings and queens of the road. When you think about what’s going on during a drive (traveling a large distance in a short amount of time surrounded by this metallic shield equipped to make the user feel as comfortable as possible) there is no denying that being able to perform such a feat can leave one in awe. This in combination with our nurtured thoughts embedded within ourselves from our parents and our geographical upbringing can turn all of that power into a deadly rampage in the blink of an eye.
For those of us who have been riding amongst traffic for quite some time, we have had this philosophical conversation and speculated as to why this happens. The majority are aware that this behavior exists and we have found a comfort in dealing with it (I presume that’s why we continue to do it.) No matter how hard we try and wrap our brains around what makes these motorists (and fellow human beings) tick, we recognize that they continue to exist, try and be respectful to their wants, and go about with our own.
This can be a difficult concept to grasp for new cyclists. When people find out about the mentality of road sharing for drivers and cyclists, they often become discouraged and end up getting rid of a beautiful thing they once deeply cared about. As much of a pain this can be for most, perhaps they’re making the right decision for themselves. Which brings me to my main point.
Cycling is not for everyone. It takes time, money, physical fitness, mental awareness, and dedication to reap its benefits. As much as we love to fantasize about putting the entire population on bikes and getting rid of all the cars, we cannot deny that this is an incredibly unrealistic goal. Not everyone is willing or able to ride a bike everywhere they go. There are those out there who would consider riding bikes in the city, but are crippled by the fear of the aggressive driver. There is no denying the difficulties of riding a bicycle in an urban setting. It takes a lot of bravery to see people getting hit and harassed by drivers to continue to go out there and risk our safety for something we care about, (but hey, C’est la vie.)
While your efforts are nothing short of valliant bike advocate, I can’t help but feel like there is this want for a utopia where everyone gets along and respects one another on the road. This doesn’t happen with political parties, corporations, or even some of our neighborhoods. Peace and love by all are both beautiful ideas, but are to remain in books and dreams.
Keep in mind I do not wish for the reader to think that I am boo-hooing what it is you do. I can sympathize that all of this harassment, injury, and death is a travesty that should no longer go unpunished. But to believe that everyone will one day change their perspectives on how people are treated on and off the road is a silly thought and frankly scares me to see people who live their lives believing in this. It’s time to get our heads out of the clouds and down to Earth. It’s time to face the facts and see this issue for what it truly is. There will always be an opposition to any argument being made. That is what creates balance in the world and makes us wiser people. If we are able to recognize the reality, then it will be easier for us to live with it and either continue to go about our ways, or make the decision that this may not be the right thing for us to pursuit. Cycling in the city is going to continue to be a difficult task regardless if new bike lanes get put in place. It is risky and dangerous and for most of us, its this sense of danger that attracts us to the lifestyle. People who want to ride bikes know what they’re getting themselves into and are going to want to ride regardless. People who do not want to ride bikes will never turn into the bike lover that you want them to be until they’re ready. These are the facts and a mindful outlook is more empowering than a fairy tale.