One thing that I have been obsessed with lately has been bullying.
For me, roadway bullying in the form of taunts and buzzing have been a very small part of cycling.
However, sometimes it’s the briefest of interactions that stick in your minds the most. Certainly, a motorist having a bad day can ruin my day in a short time.
After recent experiments where I found that the threat of 10 lbs of steel can scare off a few tons, I wondered, “Are there really this many shitty people in the world?”
Since I crave a life where I live in a happy bubble, I really didn’t want to know. I still don’t know if I can take it.
Then, however, I realized that I all ready had a mild case of Stockholm Syndrome. I felt that bullying came with the territory.
This is like women in the sixties who felt that a little groping came with their office job, I guess.
Not that my life is as bad as anyone who’s sexually harassed. I am trying to come up with the sanest and best analogies. I realize that I can get a car and be done with it–or can I?
Not really, when googling for roadway bullying, I have read more than one account where a motorist has been beaten by another for “cutting him off” or some other motorist nonsense of which I am blissfully unaware.
No, the reason I was googling because one day the light went on in my head, and I realized that the bad behavior we tolerate of motorists–I didn’t see him–has exact parallels with the other empty excuse: “boys will be boys.”
Boys will always be boys, but they don’t have to be rapists nor do motorists have to pose as killers.
In fact, I was working on a layman’s assessment of the legal rights of cyclists when faced with dangerous and unjust behavior at the hands of roadway bullies. I’ll write more on this later.
For now, I just wanted to link to this splendid post:
“…why do people find jerk bicyclists so harmful to society when they constantly interact with motorists who run red lights and stop signs… and engage in other dangerous behaviors that kill people every day?
…. I think it’s also because we’ve trained ourselves to think of driving as passing through an obstacle course rather than moving through a social space. Cars that do dumb stuff are a nuisance, but they do not interrupt the illusion until there’s an actual crash. Bodies that do dumb stuff are a threat to the idea that driving is a no harm, no foul activity.”
This was backed up by a UK study that said that one of the biggest fears that motorists have is that they are going to hit a cyclist.
Long time readers know that we are all motivated by a strong urge to protect our own egos. Therefore, we are not about to say, “Oops, I am risking people’s lives, I should be more careful.”
No, we’d rather say, “It’s the cyclists fault for being so vulnerable in the first place. If they weren’t there in the street, the I couldn’t hit him.”
This is one of the many reasons I like to constantly point out that the number of cycling deaths in the US–while pointless and ought to be reduced–pale in proportion to motorist’s deaths. I usually say, “You are more likely to DIE INSIDE A CAR than outside.”
Usually I am met with all sorts of noise on stats, but the point is that if more people are dying at something then we can all agree that it’s more deadly–this is tautalogy. Perhaps it’s not as deadly in a statistical sense, but it kills more people, and that has to count for something.
The reason I point this out is that sometimes people suggest that I am putting myself out by cycling too much and I ought to get around some other way.
Here’s the deal: give me a way to get around that is more harmless than a bicycle aka pollutes less and kills less victims (cyclists kill about one person a year), kills less people than 33,000 a year, costs less than cycling, provides better excercise than cycling, is less annoying to others, and is quieter on cycling while it gets me around faster than cycling.
Any takers? Until then, I’ll ride around on a terrible way of getting around: cycling. It’s awful, but less awful than the alternatives.