During the OKHT Mandy made the observations early on that the guys who ride their bikes to escape wives and family seemed to be far less tolerant and considerate on the roads than the guys like Jeff and I who actually enjoy riding with our wives and kids. I would go one farther (due to the events I already chronicled in my OKHT TR) and say that those same individuals are less considerate and tolerant of other men they perceive as weaker and less important to them.
The recent Guardian article entitled “Bad Driving: what are we thinking?” hits this nail right on its noggin in the following statement:
One interesting paradox is that even though we're prone to dehumanising other drivers, we still act according to social status.
It’s not too difficult to make the connection between drivers and aggressive cyclists. Or, for that matter, not so aggressive cyclists. C’mon, admit it! You’ve been impatient with a slower cyclist at some point and blown past them. Right?
The Team Louisville riders did that on the OKHT ride. I was perceived as a weaker rider because I wasn’t riding as fast or in a peloton or with some recognizable kit. There’s no arguing that point based on the response I got when I called the other rider out. I was the low man on the totem pole for some reason and (maybe) unintentionally I was marginalized.
The jerkwad that announced to everyone at the start on Sunday that there was no need to worry, the TL riders would be passing everyone quickly after starting didn’t realize that he was doing the same thing. He had relegated the rest of us into a category of diminished importance because we weren’t part of his tight circle of jerks. Er, friends.
It was a rude thing to say, especially in front of the very people he was dehumanizing, but what was even more absurd was the fact that I’m pretty sure the guy that made the comment wasn’t a better rider than most of the people around him. It was a cocky thing to say, especially when he probably didn’t have the pistons to back it up.
I use cycling as an escape but not from my family. I don’t get to ride with my wife often enough, but I take every chance I can get and we enjoy riding together. Same goes for the kids. I’ve been trying to get them out recently and now that my family bike is rolling again I’m committed to making my family the cyclo-centric nuclear unit we were meant to be.
Mandy’s comment came after she had been cut off by a few packs of aggressive team riders. After she pointed it out I started seeing it for myself, and it was after a half hour or so of watching their silliness that I had finally had enough and called out to the guy that cut me off: “Personal space!”
I wasn’t calling him out in my own defense, but to call his attention to a socially unacceptable behavior. Jane Jacobs nailed it in her Death and Life of Great American Cities when she spoke of streets being less hospitable because citizens no longer sat on their front porches keeping watch over the peace of them.
I realized that I could be a voice for that peace if I started calling people out; not in anger but in recognition of the turmoil that we’ve ignored for far too long. A long time ago--long before I knew anything official about transportation issues--I felt that Western society has a far too blasé attitude toward driving. What I've said for years is that we don't take driving seriously enough. I believe that even more strongly now.