I-Am-Not-A-Cyclist1Chris Bruntlett, in HUSH, gets something off his chest:

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I despise it when someone refers to me as a ‘cyclist’. The phrase ‘avid cyclist’ is even worse. I am no more an avid cyclist than I am an avid walker or avid eater. I am someone who often uses a bicycle, simply because it is the most civilized, efficient, enjoyable, and economical way to get around my city. …

In a local context, the term ‘cyclist’ continues to provide us with a damaging mental barrier and convenient scapegoat. It serves only to alienate and denigrate an entire segment of society, and cast them aside as ‘others’. … 

It is only when I engage with the people around me that they begin to understand I couldn’t possibly be further from this harmful and unfair set of generalizations. …

… the tide is slowly turning. As city officials continue to invest in improved infrastructure and 1,500 shared bicycles, we are drifting towards a point where cycling is no longer a political or environmental statement, but rather a utilitarian one, no different than walking down the street.

Then, and only then, will we stop identifying folks as ‘cyclists’, and treat them as individuals, with a diverse range of politics, incomes, ethnicities, careers, and interests. The only common denominator is their mode of transport on any given day.

So please, stop calling me a cyclist. I’m a husband, a father, a designer, a writer, a photographer, a filmmaker, a musician, a humanist, an urbanist, a vegetarian, and a football supporter. But most importantly, I’m the citizen of a multi-modal city. The bicycle is but a minor detail.

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That’s a very abridged version.  Go read the whole elegant essay here.

As well, Chris links to a recent post by BikePortland that looks at the use of the term ‘cyclist’ to describe people who ride bicycles: “Are You a Cyclist or Do You Cycle? The Language of Promoting Cycling.”

He was also inspired by Áron Halász’s terrific Tedx talk “Cyclists Do Not Exist“.

Comments

  1. My wife and I are both cyclists in the lycra-wearing sense of the word. We both ride in fundraisers, and I compete in triathlons. She’s a police officer as well, and says that she’s forever correcting her colleagues who describe collisions as car-vs-cyclist. “That’s not a cyclist, it’s a man on a bike.” It’s a small but important distinction, I think. Why does it matter if the guy was walking or riding a bicycle? He’s just trying to get somewhere; he should be able to do it safely.

  2. I would say the same about being a pedestrian. Interesting that we don’t label people as ‘drivers’. We have pedestrians, cyclists and cars (or traffic). When this changes then we’ll know the shift away from cars as the norm has really kicked in.

    1. I hear people labeled as “drivers”, or “motorists”, quite often. I’ve been guilty of it myself. I think it’s divisive, so I’m trying to stop.

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