When I was at a Bike Advocacy retreat a couple of weeks ago I learned about a program set up by the LA County Bike Coalition that addresses Latino cyclists that are largely absent from the traditional view of cyclists. This program provides them with supplies, skills, and knowledge. It looks like a cool and smart idea. This helpful program is called Invisible Cyclists.
But there is a different type of Invisible Cyclists, I’ve come to find, and those are the every day people that ride their bike and obey the traffic laws.
Nearly every time I talk to someone who drives cars exclusively, I am immediately barraged with complaints about those cyclists that “blow through lights”, “never stop at stop signs” and generally cause mayhem for the apparently angelic and universally law-abiding demographic of car drivers.
But I am one of those bicycle riders that DOES stop at lights, that does stop at stop signs, that yields to other road users when appropriate and no one ever seems to notice that.
I am an Invisible Cyclist for this reason.
Frequently I’ll stop at a light and then I’ll be passed by another bike rider who rides through the light — sometimes unsafely, and sometimes after checking that there are no cars coming — but the image of the law-breaking cyclist seems to be the one that hammers itself into the psyche of drivers who then lump all bicycle riders into the group of law-breakers.
And frankly, I am absolutely sick of it. I am not the same as every single person who shares my transportation choice and I do not deserve to be disrespected and cut off and run off the road in some revenge fantasy against those that do break the law.
If you’re driving a car I know that you are a different person than everyone else who drives. It’s the same with every group.
It simply does not make sense that “all cyclists” break laws, just as it doesn’t make sense to assume that all BRUNETTES or all redheads; that all gay people or all straight people, that all Christians or all Muslims act in the same way.
Substitute the word “cyclist” in the phrase “All cyclists break laws” with any other group and you’ll find out how completely stupid that is.
So next time you get in your car, pay attention to everyone on the road. I bet you’ll notice a lot more people riding bikes then you expect, and a lot more of them obeying laws than you’re used to seeing.
We’re out there and we are trying to ride safely while sharing the roads with vehicles far larger than ours.
So please drive carefully around us — each of us is one less car causing a traffic jam. We might be your neighbor, your teacher, banker, professor, a doctor, a mother, a father and son, or a Senate candidate.