Enough of us v them

Let’s open a parenthesis for a moment, if I may…


Since becoming part of the cycling community I have been noticing an incredibly frictional relationship amongst cyclists (please go read any cycle forum of any sort and you’ll see what I mean). What I also noticed was what a small number of individuals make up this (British) cycling community.

The more I cycle, the more I am involved with the bigger picture and the more frustrated and disheartened I become.

Looking at studies undertaken by the European Union (2002) and the US Department of Transportation (2003) in the UK 0.2Km were cycled per inhabitant per day, in the US this was 0.1km, versus the Netherlands with 2.5km. (I doubt the ratio has changed even today)

The Office of National Statistics reveals that at the last census (2001) 634,588 people cycled to work whilst 12,324,166 drove a car or van.

So this ‘us v them’ is starting to grind me… no end.

How is it possible that we have to be so narrow minded, so egocentric and damn-right-stubborn that instead of forming a tight community we spend half our time, or more, criticising each other between: “you must wear a helmet”, “you must NOT wear a helmet”; “I am more hipster than you coz I wear x, y and z”; “I am cooler than you coz I wear a flap cap and a tweed jacket”; or “I am a cleverer cyclist than you because I wear the most high-tech cycling clothing you could find” or even “I am cooler than you because my bike is worth £1000 and yours is £100” (yes, I have heard this myself!).

We have to put up with bad infrastructure every single day, we have to hear horrific news of cyclists being hit and killed by cars, vans and HGV lorries and so on!

Just look at our European cousins in Holland, Denmark… and yes, even Germany, France…. you name it, most of other European countries are miles ahead of the UK in providing a road system that accommodates the bike and its cyclist, either by providing separated cycle lanes or by general respect between drivers and cyclists.

Could it be possible that we could set aside our little gangs (fixies, lycra, commuters, students, etc etc), save our breath on pitiful arguments that lead us nowhere and start “singing from the same hymn” about supporting cycling as a viable alternative to the car, for all?

Regardless of clothing-wear, head gear, foot-wear, bike gear, and so on…

Jeeezzzz I sound like I am pledging to stop discrimination within this tiny cycling community of ours (far from being a “community” by the way).


Can we try???????????????????????????????????????????????????


Close parenthesis


7 responses to “Enough of us v them

  1. i agree, i mean, what could be more damaging to the cycling community than elitism because one does, or has, more than the other. i don’t get it, it doesn’t make anyone less of a cyclist based on what we do with our bikes. i’ve complained about this so many times because it’s a very frustrating thing to hear people bring each other down because of a bike, really people? i mean, if we want to change the world with a bike, why would we push people away from them? for one, here in the states, and i’m sure it’s overseas too, the bike shop is a manifestation of these attitudes. it makes me sick as a customer and woman who will not hesitate them call out their machismo (spanish for excessive masculinity and sexism). i don’t stand for it.

    i’m glad i’m not the only one who see’s this. thanks for making your voice heard.

  2. Put aside the ancient fueds – roadies v. mountain bikes, fixies, touring, and casual cyclists? Now THAT’S a radical notion! LOL

    On the whole, I think the fissures in the cycling community are largely overblown. Most cyclists understand and value the contributions of all others, even though they may prefer (and take pride in) their own particular discipline. There’s always the occasional extremist who takes things too far, but I think they are in the “extreme” minority, so to speak!

    Cycling advocates are passionate and therefore will have strong views on how to improve things for everyone. I have noticed they break down into two large groups: the Pragmatists, who advocate small improvements and the Utopians, who argue for policies that will work best once the world converts to a Copenhagen-like system. A good example of how this plays out is the issue of helmet use. Pragmatists argue that you should use a helmet as it clearly doesn’t hurt you and arguably makes you safer. Utopians argue that if more people cycled, it would be safer for everyone and helmet use wouldn’t be necessary. Further, Utopians state helmet use helps convince casual cyclists that riding a bike is dangerous and therefore reducing the number of people on bikes.

    The arguments continue. Here’s hoping they are for the most part constructive.

    • Hi Steve.

      I see where you’re coming from, and in theory I would agree with you. But in reality, at least in my experience, this is not the case. These ‘feuds’ do affect the everyday, especially novice, cyclist. I keep on cycling because I love it, because it saves me money and because I’d rather burn fat than oil. BUT, I’ve had countless experiences of being badly overtaken by fellow (fast) cyclists, nearly knocking me off my bike, I heard so many cyclists, of the lycra style, tut at me while overtaking me because I cycle slowly (I use my bike to from A to B, in my normal clothes and I don’t intend to sweat and arrive at my destination in a mess, when I either don’t intend to have a shower or can’t).

      Good friends of mine, who would like to take up cycling and leave the car behind, not only are put off by the bad cycling infrastructure we have, by the perception of lack of safety (note the use of the word ‘perception’) but also by seeing other cyclists on the roads, who look and act aggressive.

      I wear a helmet and I equally value the freedom of choice and respect who chooses not to wear one. I am fed up of some encounters that again tut at me because I choose to wear a helmet. I am cycling!! That should be good enough!!

      I’d love to say you’re absolutely right and what you say is what happens, but in reality these petty ‘feuds’ don’t do the promotion of cycling as a mode of transport, for all, any good at all. And it’s really frustrating, because there are tonnes of researches out there that show how cycling and walking do benefit the whole population as well as the economy much much more than a car-centric population.

      Sorry for this long reply, but you see I hear your type of justification for this cycling community friction so often, I am becoming frustrated and disheartened that it gets justified in the first place.

      L x

  3. There’s a lot of truth in your article but it does miss one of the main things about cycling – at least as far as I am concerned – and that’s the fact that many cyclists cannot be put into one group. I commute into Manchester City Centre each day on my road bike as fast as I can – down the Parkway! I do 3 or 4 sportives each year. But I also cycle with my wife and children on my “sit up and beg” bike and occasionally go out on the rough stuff. Admittedly I have far too many bikes, and our garage looks like a second hand bike shop, but I dress differently and cycle differently depending on what I’m doing or where I’m going.
    I’m not a Lycra Lout, or a casual cyclist or a mountain biker – what I am is a cyclist.
    Now there are many bad cyclist around – some who are the “lycra” crowd, some who just have an attitude and some who seem to have little or no awareness of the world around them (and particularly other cyclists and pedestrians). But there are bad drivers (lots) and bad pedestrians (not so many).
    People need to encourage the peception of all types of cyclists as cyclists first, and those of us who indulge in all the different types of cycling need to push that message. That way lies inclusivity and encouraging non or occasional cyclists into the fold.

    Now as for helmets……

  4. Great comments so far, thanks for the contribution.

    I do hope that my post is not being misunderstood. I know that cyclists shouldn’t be put into one ‘box’, that’s exactly my point. And in fact (what I tried to express in my post) is that the arguments of ‘us v them’ i.e. one box versus another one, is what frustrates me. We should all just consider ourselves as citizen cyclists, being out there on our bikes, choosing and promoting the bike over the car, or at least promoting that the bike has a right to be on the road just as much as the car.

    But too often I hear/read divisions within this small cycling community of ours which I just cannot understand why this happens in the first place.

    What I am trying to stress is that we should all put our preferences/differences (call it as you prefer) to one side and just promote the fact that cycling should be an easy and efficient way of getting about for everyone, thus making cycling really inclusive!

  5. http://monkeyphotomcr.blogspot.com/2011/02/treachery-infamy-they-all-got-it-in-for.html


    It all boils down to one of my favourite Gary fisher quotes, “Anyone on a bike is a friend o’ mine.”

    One small thing to add – if I pass slower folk, I don’t “let on” (if I see you comng the other way, or waiting at a light, I nod, wave, say hello &c) – I don’t when passing because sometimes it startles people. I’m also quite careful to check behind to make sure I don’t “chop” folks’ wheels by coming back in to the left too abruptly. I guess if you didn’t know me, that could look like me ignoring you, and then rubbing my overtake in your face, but it really isn’t.

  6. Hi LC,

    I first read this post before Steve’s comment and all I could think of was an old tune that repeats the line: “All of us are one people”

    Steve’s comment does make a valid point. I recently replied to a uni student asking about GMCC’s views by saying:
    All I can say clearly is that there are as many different types of cyclists and views on cycling as there are shapes and sizes of people !

    I think it would help if we were aware of our different attitudes and needs, but make a conscious effort to stick together on issues where we agree or have common needs.
    Which I think we do, it’s just that as Steve rightly points out “the fissures in the cycling community are largely overblown” … by the UK’s sensationalist media and the motoring lobby.

    ps. I don’t agree that every campaigner is either a Pragmatist or a Utopian – I’m probably theoretically a Utopian but practically pragmatic 😉

    Cheers, Jonathan.

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