This is not an isolated thing. Bikes versus cars is a famously bloody flame war, both online and in real life, and once you bring pedestrians in the mix, the shit soup is good and stirred. If you're invested in the subject, you know the arguments: "Bicyclists are law-breaking dicks who zoom dangerously around in traffic." "Cities are designed for cars." "Cyclists are weenies who are trying to save the environment, or hipsters, or annoying fitness nuts." And that shit bleeds way into real life. There are drivers who more or less deliberately hit cyclists and lose their complete and utter shit when dealing with them. There are cyclists who fatally run into pedestrians and call it "unavoidable." I was kind of hoping I could find stories about pedestrians who eat cars or something to make this a rock-paper-scissors analogy, but it turns out pedestrians are just generally fucked.
Of course, this entire situation is because of a very specific group of people: assholes. Every mode of transport has its share, and for cyclists, it's the jerkfaces who zip around in the traffic with nothing but an "I could squeeze through here" mindset, and often at way too high speeds. No one notices the people who ride their bikes carefully and follow the rules. It's the assholes and their various accidents and close calls who hog the publicity, which leads to many drivers perceiving cyclists as hostile yet fragile meat missiles capable of nothing but erratic, borderline-illegal turns and twists. For pedestrians, it's the same, but you're a silent, fast meat missile riding on 30 pounds of cold murder steel.
But hey, let the rest of the world hate you. At least you still have your fellow bicyclists, who totally understand your thing and like you. You can always hang out with them, right? R-right?
Bicyclists Hate Each Other, Too
Ha! Plot twist!
Individual groups of cyclists may be tight, but even casual bike-riding will reveal that cyclists as a whole are an insanely fragmented demographic, and most of the splinter groups are wary of each other. When you buy a motorcycle, it's like joining a club, and you happily wave your hand at passing bikers. When you buy a bike, you get passive-aggressive "11 types of cyclists we all know" lists from Cycling Weekly which make no secret about the fact that all 11 types are kind of dipshits. That article is exclusively about the spandex-clad hardcore riders, by the way -- the very people who read fucking Cycling Weekly in the first place.
It's the same all across the board. The cycling community is pretty tribal, and as befits an individual sport, most cyclists tend to be fiercely independent in their particular biking style and preferences. So even when everyone technically follows the law, the stink eyes cyclists give to everyone who differs from their preferred parameters can be something to behold. And how many stink eyes is that? Well, let's look at some of the different types:
- The spandex-clad dudes with expensive sports bikes and a midlife crisis who hate everyone slower than them, which is everyone
- The laissez-faire people riding slow, one-gear bikes super erratically, swerving wherever the fuck they like and never letting on where they'll turn next
- The men who can't accept that some women have better bikes and/or pedal faster, and deliberately block their paths or attempt to overtake them regardless of what happens around them
- People who for some reason genuinely think laws don't apply to them
Consciously or not, each and every one of them thinks that their brand of cycling is the right one. And whenever someone does something that differs from their narrow specifications of What's Right, dirty looks that would make Ivan Drago take a step backwards fly through the air.
Of course, it doesn't exactly help that every once in a while, every one of us earns those looks. It's so fucking easy to make mistakes when you're cycling. Know those times when you're driving on a highway and there's just miles and miles of open road in front of you? That chill cruise mode normally associated with driving can totally hit you when you're cycling, too -- and when it does, you're not in a heavy, protective metal box. The monotone repetitiveness of pedaling and the sense of silently gliding over the ground can zone you out really quickly, right up until you notice that you've veered a little too close to the center of the road, or nearly collided with someone else, or stopped for a red light and somehow ended up at a 45-degree angle blocking pedestrians, bikes, and cars alike like a complete dipshit. It's not something I'd call extremely common -- it's not like every cyclist out there is driving like a clown 24/7. But you see someone's zoned-out bumblefuckery almost daily out there, and I'm not even going to pretend that I haven't done my share of that shit as well. Hey, I just understood why drivers sometimes hate us.
In all fairness, that's just my personal experience of bicyclists, and I'm a notoriously grumpy fucker. It's entirely possible that to someone else, the cycling experience is way more of a "unicorns farting rainbows" thing than the Mad Max world I've described. Despite my tendency to give cycling a hard time, at the end of the day, I do enjoy it a lot. I enjoy it enough to write thousands of passionate words about it.
Besides, it sure as hell beats riding on a bus that someone has used as a toilet.
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked columnist and freelance editor. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.
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