Segregated Cycling

What do you think of when you read the title?

If you are like me, you might think of men in pointy white hats, Jim Crow, and people getting sprayed with hoses in Alabama.

When told that this is a “neutral” term, you might wonder why such a loaded term is being used.

In fact, the word sounds strangely like a weasel word. By weasel word, I mean a word which is chosen, merely for its subjective effect.

Let’s test this.

Do you think the originators of the term “segregated facilities” are in favor of them or against them.

[The right answer is on the bottom–upside down. Turn your monitor over to read the answer.*]

The there’s no better term for bike infrastructure than “segregated”. Right?

Besides, I was told, that this term was used for years by transportation professionals.

My first piece of investigation to where segregated came from is on dictionaries of transportation.

The first one that I found was in

According to the Texas Highway Department, “segregated facilities” means…uh, it has no meaning.

That’s right, this “official” term, which was used for years is totally unknown by transportation professionals in Texas.

As much as I love Texas, perhaps that’s just them. Let’s be a bit less provincial.

Here’s an organization which works with the US Transportation Department. Surely they would know what segregated means. Perhaps they would trace its long history and explain how it has nothing to do with Civil Rights.

According to RITA, segregated means nada.

That’s right, if it is an official term, it’s also not defined by some of the biggest transportation dictionaries in the US.

Still, lest we be accused of deliberately finding dictionaries without the term because of our hidden agenda, aka not being a racist asshole, let’s dig more.

Let’s type segregated facilities into google.

Google, being googe, your milage may vary on this search.

For me, number one is racial segregation. Most of us think that’s bad and linking cycling infrastructure with racism is pretty manipulative.

The second term is a wikipedia article we will go in to detail further so we’ll set that aside for now.

Next, I have images of people in the South having to use separate toilets and drinking fountains.

Here I want a cycle track which will be used with all races and here we have images from a sad time in US history.

Next, is an agreement not to perform racist segregation.

Next are laws against racial segregation. Next is a site dealing with the pain of racism.

Later on, we see sexism in segregation of facilities.

Only one article actually talks about this elusive term of
segregated facilities.

Our old friend wikipedia.

There’s a whole neutral article on segregation. Since it’s on wikipedia, it has to be official and neutral, right?

If you look at the other uses of the word segregated on wikpedia, indeed, we have some neutral uses of the term.

All of them are in chemistry or biology where the terms is used where things are separated. The terms seem to be old such as in taxonomy. One thing that all the neutral uses of segregation have in common is that the do NOT REFER TO PEOPLE.

I put that in all caps because, you will see that when people are involved segregation is not neutral.

Racial segregation, residential segregation, and so on.

Since segregated cycling facilities is used with regards to humans, we know this is also meant to be pejoratively.

Thus, the term is only used by those opposed to the facilities. Newcomers to advocacy who are in favor of facilities will sometimes use the term until they are corrected.

However, the discussion over terms sidetracks from real progress towards getting facilities. This is the real purpose of using the term.

I have not finished investigating the wikipedia page which is the only official looking page which mentions segregation and is not about racism. However, I suspect that this page is carefully crafted to look neutral.

Here’s a clue.

The wikipedia page links to the Federal Highway Administration. This is under their terminology section where it claims that “Various guides define the different types of bikeway…”

So I looked on their page to see if segregated was used.

Indeed, the term is used. However, the usage is merely to speak of separating traffic. It’s not used interchangeably with “bicycle infrastructure.”

Thus, this the terminology links are there to imply that segregated is an official term without actually saying so which gives plausible deniablility.

But wait!

Terms change and engineers often use terms that have double means. “Strap on” and “reach around” spring to mind in recent conversations with engineers who’s minds are more innocent than my own.

I also know of the term “slave” used with hard drives. When I first heard it, I thought nothing of it. Once I realized it could be offensive, I started calling the drives primary and secondary, but didn’t raise a fuss when others used it as it is official and meant to be neutral.

When I type the terms into google, though, won’t we see people in shackles as well as guides to cable selection of the master hard drive?

Um, no.

Every single link is of a technical origin which is much different that the findings on a search for segregation.

Thus, I conclude that the term segregated when used for bicycle facilities is deliberately used by opponents of facilities, only, in order to don the mantle of civil rights.

I find this to be highly offensive behavior without any merit (as it’s not even funny!) 🙂

All this research may seem like overkill, but only if one is unaware of the whole mock “freak out”, pretend offense that people take when they are caught at this racist stunt.

Thus, I searched exhaustively to prove that not only is this term used in a bizarre way to inject racism in order to win an argument which is doomed, but also that the people who use it and deny its manipulative origins are liars as well.


* People who made up the term segregation are opposed to bike facilities.


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