Friday, January 29, 2010

Thoughts on Voicing Opinions

Maybe it is just the circles in which I spin, but there has been a large outpouring of comments regarding the NPR show from Tuesday. As I said before the show went on the air, give cyclists a chance to interact with the public in a forum that doesn't involve having things thrown at them, and we will jump at the opportunity. For those that listened and those that commented, thank you for helping us feel we are a positive influence regarding the bicycle question.

Truly, I expected, or at least was bracing for, some more callers with negative reactions to bicycles on the road. As it happened, even the one phoned-in gripe about bikes running red lights was not unreasonably founded and seemed constructively worded to me. If anything, this gave us a chance to explain our perspective on the issue: Yes, running lights is breaking the law, and maybe cyclist should refrain, but if traffic laws are about public safety, a 180 pound bike and rider present a small fraction of the risk presented by even the smallest of cars at over a ton.

Now the word "positive" is something I was thinking about before the show, and have continued pondering in the days that followed. In readying myself for the expected but unrealized barrage, I decided the best option for myself and bicycling in general was to remain positive, upbeat, and constructive. In simpler terms, I vowed not to argue. Certainly, there are plenty of complaints to be made about car/bike interactions, and oh yes, these complaints are certainly made, but as I reflect on the callers and comments that expressed a desire to ride more than they currently do, it seems to me the last thing we need to present to people are the negative aspects of riding a bike. In fact, it may be the last thing we need to present to ourselves.

See, in riding a bike a lot, I interact with a lot of motorized road users. As I said on the show, the majority are fine, and some might even go so far as being helpful, but no doubt, I've raised my voice, bumped some fenders, and even once had the opportunity to tumble across someone's hood before yelling at them through their open window. I got mad. Did that accomplish anything? Probably not. Maybe it raised my blood pressure a little, which is thankfully quite low, because I ride a bike a lot. But more importantly, being angry, it seems to me, might make me angrier in everything I do, and therefore more often a jerk. While riding the other night, Brendan again mentioned his resolution to be less of a jerk. Shooting for that goal, we could make life better not just for those around us, but ourselves as well.

Is this the face of an angry cyclist?
(Thank you to Chion Wolf for the photo, which I mangled)
(but Brendan fixed, THANK YOU!)

In reflecting on the show, there is one basic question I should have suggested that Colin ask: "Why do you ride a bike?". Sure there are problems with riding a bike, but at the core of it, there is the answer to this fundamental question. The answer must be pretty good considering some of the risks we choose to face out there on the roads, and it is. Just like the bikes themselves, the answer isn't the same for every rider, but there is something at the core of this sport, actually riding a bike, and loving it, that keeps us coming back. The more the merrier.


Brendan said...

I think I'm going to fix that picture for you.

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