April 7, 2019

A COOL AND LOGICAL ANALYSIS OF THE BICYCLE MENACE. As P.J. O’Rourke warned in the mid-1980s in his essay of the same name:

Our nation is afflicted with a plague of bicycles. Everywhere the public right-of-way is glutted with whirring, unbalanced contraptions of rubber, wire, and cheap steel pipe. Riders of these flimsy appliances pay no heed to stop signs or red lights. They dart from between parked cars, dash along double yellow lines, and whiz through crosswalks right over the toes of law-abiding citizens like me.

In the cities, every lamppost, tree, and street sign is disfigured by a bicycle slathered in chains and locks. And elevators must be shared with the cycling faddist so attached to his “moron’s bath-chair” that he has to take it with him everywhere he goes.

In the country, one cannot drive around a curve or over the crest of a hill without encountering a gaggle of huffing bicyclers spread across the road in suicidal phalanx.

Even the wilderness is not safe from infestation, as there is now such a thing as an off-road bicycle and a horrible sport called “bicycle-cross.”

The ungainly geometry and primitive mechanicals of the bicycle are an offense to the eye. The grimy and perspiring riders of the bicycle are an offense to the nose. And the very existence of the bicycle is an offense to reason and wisdom.

The cyclists’ latest offense to reason is their sudden offense at the word “cyclist,” David Thompson writes today:

Should we stop using the word ‘cyclist’?

So asks Laura Laker in the pages of the Guardian, thereby adding to our collection of classic sentences from said newspaper. This is promptly followed by another contender:

As the repair man rummaged around in my gas oven, I tried to explain something to him about cyclists.

Which perhaps conveys a flavour of what follows.

Stopping using the term “cyclist” has been up for debate since an Australian study last week found 31% of respondents viewed cyclists as less than human.

Specifically, a minority of motorists have been known to indulge in “humorous references to violence against cyclists,” which is entirely unwarranted, apparently, and must not be allowed to continue.

It is easy to dehumanise people who cycle… because they often dress differently and move in a mechanical way, and drivers cannot see their faces… Public references to violence against cyclists are not uncommon, and rarely given the same condemnation as, for example, violence towards women or bullying.

It occurs to me that cyclists are more likely to be the subject of unkind humour if their behaviour, not their chosen outfit, is causing a problem, or is perceived as such. And note the bold conflation of actual violence with merely joking about it.

There is another answer. “John works hard, which means that he can afford a car. That means he gets home to his family, safely, every night. Work harder. Get a car.”

(Via Small Dead Animals.)

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