Why do people have a problem with bikes?

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Mona Caron

I've always been perplexed at all negativity that gets directed at bicyclists in general, and those who ride on Critical Mass in particular. The people from around the world that I've met this week as I worked on our cover story about the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass have been some of the nicest and most positive and life-affirming people I've met in a long time, the exact opposite of the sometimes-voiced stereotype that they're entitled or angry.

So I was interested to read a pair of dueling online posts this week analyzing why motorists and other non-cyclists feel such disproportionate and inexplicable anger and resentment toward a whole class of people who have made a transportation choice that helps everyone, reducing traffic congestion and transit costs while helping protect the environment and reduce dependence on oil.

Their answers range from the affect heuristic, which is the idea that emotional triggers like seeing a cyclist almost get splattered affect our perceptions far more than our reason, to the resentment many drivers feel about being stuck in traffic while cyclists zip past them and just the basic sense of how foreign and strange cycling seems to many who don't do it.

Some of those arguments ring more true to me than others, but I think the entire discussion is a fascinating one to have in the days leading up to this Friday's 20th anniversary Critical Mass ride, which will feature a rainbow of nationalities, ideologies, ethnic and class backgrounds, and other traits – their only real commonality being an affinity for bikes.

“I just really like to ride. It's a meditative thing for me. All my epiphanies come to me on a bike,” Alix Avelen, a 25-year-old woman who just moved to San Francisco from Toronto, bike touring the final leg from Vancouver starting in July, told me during Sunday's Art Bike/Freak Bike Ride, part of the CM20 celebration.

It was her very first Critical Mass, although she's been a regular urban cyclist for the last six years, and she believes that it's important to have events, communities, and cultural happenings that promote cycling: “It just makes sense in cities.”

“We're going to end up riding bikes because oil is getting more expensive and the streets are becoming more crowded,” rRez, a San Francisco native and longtime supporter of the city's cycling community, told me on that ride. “Things are changing partly because we want them to change and partly because the old world is not sustainable.”

We can continue to cling to the old ways in the face of evidence that neither local roads nor our taxed planet can accommodate an indefinitely growing number of cars. Or we can encourage more people to try riding bikes, and give us the infrastructure we need to do it safely, rather than seeing us as a hostile force trying to take over your roads.

Even grungy looking anarchists like Justin Hood of the Black Label Bike Club offer surprisingly clear-eyed assessments of the role of bikes and Critical Mass. “The point of Critical Mas is just to go out and ride your bike. It's not supposed to be about confronting drivers and smashing cars,” Hood said, admitting that there are times and places for such aggressive resistance, just not during this ride. “The point of Critical Mass is that if there's enough of us, we are traffic. And this Critical Mass coming up is going to be gigantic!”

Or if you'd rather talk than ride, there are some opportunities for that this week as well, including the Shift Happens: Critical Mass at 20 book release party and discussion at 5:45 this afternoon at the Main Library; and the International Critical Mass Symposium from 5-8pm on Saturday at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Comments

Great band and song!

Posted by TrollKiller on May. 09, 2013 @ 8:44 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgCqz3l33kU

Local scenery! Local talent! No personal pecuniary interest, just my fave.

:0)

Posted by lillipublicans on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

Cool!

Posted by TrollKiller on May. 15, 2013 @ 7:47 am

You're an awful thick cunt.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

And of course the police in this town aren't doing a damned thing about it. I've vowed to buy a cane so I can start sticking it through the spokes of the jerks who are risking MY life and limb as a pedestrian as they ride down Civic Center sidewalks at full speed. They are a menace and they can all go to hell.

Posted by sfmike on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

As an SF bicyclist, I am saddened to find this torrent of frustration here. I’ve been a bicycling commuter for 8 months (not long, admittedly) ever since I moved into the city. I’m 24 years old and I don’t have anywhere near the salary to justify managing a car in this city. I commute to Dublin every day, and I have a couple of miles on each side of my BART journey to manage. So instead of making my commute over 2 hours long each way, I cut it down to just under 1 ½ hours each way by biking to and from the train station at each end. Basically, biking is a necessity for me.

I’ve come across bicyclists, pedestrians and car drivers that range from being exceedingly polite to law-abiding to oblivious to raging, inconsiderate jerks. However, I’m glad to report that the bike scene I’ve seen is not so terrible or extreme as it’s been presented here by many of you.

Perhaps I’m lucky/living with my head in a cloud/one of the oblivious ones. By no means is the coexistence of bikes, feet and automobiles an entirely perfect one. However,I can think of maybe a handful of times in the entire 8 + months that I've lived here and biked everywhere that I've seen anyone have to jump out of the way for a biker. And the number of times that I have compelled someone move with any amount of haste? Mayyyybe twice. And honestly, those weren’t intentional, and I apologized immediately.

I could go on for quite a long time here, but for now, I’m just trying to throw a bit of balance in this mixture. Yes, some bikers are jerks. Yes, I have almost been killed by some drivers (namely, MUNI) that are jerks, too. Half the bicyclists I know have been hit, doored, caught in the MUNI tracks and more. However, the majority of bikers and drivers that I see out there are respectable, respectful users of the road system.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

As an SF bicyclist, I am saddened to find this torrent of frustration here. I’ve been a bicycling commuter for 8 months (not long, admittedly) ever since I moved into the city. I’m 24 years old and I don’t have anywhere near the salary to justify managing a car in this city. I commute to Dublin every day, and I have a couple of miles on each side of my BART journey to manage. So instead of making my commute over 2 hours long each way, I cut it down to just under 1 ½ hours each way by biking to and from the train station at each end. Basically, biking is a necessity for me.

I’ve come across bicyclists, pedestrians and car drivers that range from being exceedingly polite to law-abiding to oblivious to raging, inconsiderate jerks. However, I’m glad to report that the bike scene I’ve seen is not so terrible or extreme as it’s been presented here by many of you.

Perhaps I’m lucky/living with my head in a cloud/one of the oblivious ones. By no means is the coexistence of bikes, feet and automobiles an entirely perfect one. However,I can think of maybe a handful of times in the entire 8 + months that I've lived here and biked everywhere that I've seen anyone have to jump out of the way for a biker. And the number of times that I have compelled someone move with any amount of haste? Maybe twice. And in defense, those weren’t intentional, and I apologized immediately.

I could go on for quite a long time discussing the habits of bicyclists, but for now, I’ll simply throw a bit of balance in this heated chain. Yes, some bikers are jerks. On the other hand, I have almost been killed by several drivers, some who were just oblivious and some who were jerks, too. Half the bicyclists I know have been hit, doored, caught in the MUNI tracks and more. However, the majority of bikers and drivers that I see out there are respectable, respectful users of the road. To implicate an entire population of bike users is silly and unjust.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

As an SF bicyclist, I am saddened to find this torrent of frustration here. I’ve been a bicycling commuter for 8 months (not long, admittedly) ever since I moved into the city. I’m 24 years old and I don’t have anywhere near the salary to justify managing a car in this city. I commute to Dublin every day, and I have a couple of miles on each side of my BART journey to manage. So instead of making my commute over 2 hours long each way, I cut it down to just under 1 ½ hours each way by biking to and from the train station at each end. Basically, biking is a necessity for me.

I’ve come across bicyclists, pedestrians and car drivers that range from being exceedingly polite to law-abiding to oblivious to raging, inconsiderate jerks. However, I’m glad to report that the bike scene I’ve seen is not so terrible or extreme as it’s been presented here by many of you.

Perhaps I’m lucky/living with my head in a cloud/one of the oblivious ones. By no means is the coexistence of bikes, feet and automobiles an entirely perfect one. However,I can think of maybe a handful of times in the entire 8 + months that I've lived here and biked everywhere that I've seen anyone have to jump out of the way for a biker. And the number of times that I have compelled someone move with any amount of haste? Maybe twice. And honestly, those weren’t intentional, and I apologized immediately.

I could go on for quite a long time here, but for now, I’m just trying to throw a bit of balance in this mixture. Yes, some bikers are jerks. Yes, I have almost been killed by some drivers (namely, MUNI) that are jerks, too. Half the bicyclists I know have been hit, doored, caught in the MUNI tracks and more. However, the majority of bikers and drivers that I see out there are respectable, respectful users of the road system.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

As an SF bicyclist, I am saddened to find this torrent of frustration here. I’ve been a bicycling commuter for 8 months (not long, admittedly) ever since I moved into the city. I’m 24 years old and I don’t have anywhere near the salary to justify managing a car in this city. I commute to Dublin every day, and I have a couple of miles on each side of my BART journey to manage. So instead of making my commute over 2 hours long each way, I cut it down to just under 1 ½ hours each way by biking to and from the train station at each end. Basically, biking is a necessity for me.

I’ve come across bicyclists, pedestrians and car drivers that range from being exceedingly polite to law-abiding to oblivious to raging, inconsiderate jerks. However, I’m glad to report that the bike scene I’ve seen is not so terrible or extreme as it’s been presented here by many of you.

Perhaps I’m lucky/living with my head in a cloud/one of the oblivious ones. By no means is the coexistence of bikes, feet and automobiles an entirely perfect one. However,I can think of maybe a handful of times in the entire 8 + months that I've lived here and biked everywhere that I've seen anyone have to jump out of the way for a biker. And the number of times that I have compelled someone move with any amount of haste? Mayyyybe twice. And honestly, those weren’t intentional, and I apologized immediately.

I could go on for quite a long time here, but for now, I’m just trying to throw a bit of balance in this mixture. Yes, some bikers are jerks. Yes, I have almost been killed by some drivers (namely, MUNI) that are jerks, too. Half the bicyclists I know have been hit, doored, caught in the MUNI tracks and more. However, the majority of bikers and drivers that I see out there are respectable, respectful users of the road system.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

I do have a problem with that ad at the top of your page which depicts women with huge breasts -- ridiculously huge -- and is obviously aimed at men. As a woman, I find it sexist and demeaning. C'mon, half your audience is female. Why should we have these images forced on us? And is social sex just for men? Where is your ad depicting dudes with enormous cocks? Hmmm?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

If you're referring to the Critical Mass picture, her breasts are rather smallish to average. Somewhere between B-cup and C-cup, but who knows, maybe to some people they seem huge. I suppose it depends on what you're comparing it to.

If it's an ad, then I'm not getting the same ad on my page. Oh, I looked... but I don't see it. Why do you get an ad for big breasts, and I get an ad for Julian Davis (whose breasts are definitely small)? It just doesn't seem fair to me!

Perhaps it's one of those algorithms that Google uses to tailor ads to your interests, based on the things you search for. If so, maybe it's time for a little introspection.

And why hate on other women for their breasts anyway? Some women just have bigger breasts than others. And they want to show them. Don't hate them for it. They're not doing it to demean you.

You are right that I haven't seen ads in the Guardian of dudes with enormous cocks. They save those for the cover. Well actually it wasn't that enormous, IIRC. But whatever.

Personally I'm Ok with it. We're a big tent city. Nobody forces you to look. You can put a sticky note over the ad if you find it so offensive... or just read the Chronicle.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

I guess you can't ever ask a troll if they're trolling, since by definition, a troll will deny it, but... the woman in the poster's breasts look "ridiculously huge"? I have a B cup and she looks slightly smaller than me. Maybe it's her hips adding the distortion? Or maybe you're projecting her expression and demeanor onto her physical features? She does look a bit aggressive and vampy, but I find that attractive. If she walked up to me and asked me to go to critical mass, I'd say yes in a heartbeat. I mean, why does a sexy woman make you assume the target of the ad is men? A bit heteronormative of you if you ask me.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 5:15 am

I don't hate the bike rider, cyclists makes them sound like racers. We all have to share roads, pathways and sidewalks. Yes sidewalks, remember cars have to use them when they back out or pull in. I drive a 2000 ground car, which i prefer to make sure that all those around me get home or work or the place you need to arrive to. We have just don't space to go around, we work in far flung cities, we living in far flung cities which means the car driver in his day will come across different bike riders and walkers. Improve walkers, bikes and the riders, bus and public transit, cars and truck options.

Posted by Garrett on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 9:42 am

Why does the SFBC have such a problem with cars and no commensurate problem with the lack of reliable, rapid regional transit that if provided, would reduce the number of cars on the road?

Posted by marcos on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 10:17 am

There are many reasons individuals might develop negative perceptions of cyclists, ranging from frustrations of drivers at these slower moving vehicles being in traffic, to the poor behavior of cyclists who break traffic laws.

Regardless, cyclists have a recognizable subculture, and individuals with a predisposition toward viewing cyclists negatively attach to this feature and generalize their negative perceptions to encompass the subgroup as a whole category. Other associations are also made, with youth culture, with persevered "left" or "liberal" affiliations of political culture and cyclist subculture, etc.

The populist aspect of the critical mass causes certain people a high level of anxiety. This is the same segment of society that feels anxiety and holds negative perceptions on any public gathering of any kind, especially one that might seem laden with overtones of activism (i.e., cyclist rights). This same segment of the population feels intimidated by all public gatherings with a discernible identity, and perceives any such event as an implicit threat of disorder and/or violence.

So basically, if you group up and have a public party for any reason, with any particular theme, or involving any kind of "message", the more sensitive members of society will feel threatened. There's just no real way to avoid it.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 4:55 am

Very interesting analysis

 

Posted by steven on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

1. JoetheSFRepublican is right about one thing: we Baby Boomers got to use up all the Earth's resources, then renounce our evil ways. Way Back In The Day I drove from Berkeley to Reno in a little over an hour in a Chevelle Malibu SS. Pedal-to-the-metal and Hendrix on the radio a branny-new Hwy. 80 lay defenseless before me. Good Times. But those days are over, kids. That world was never sustainable; at least we figured that out,
which gave rise to environmental awareness. Sorry, but there's no going back.

2. Cites are relics, anachronisms, and obsolete. The only reason to have millions of people living cheek-to-jowl is for the 1% to make money.
Cities are ugly, dirty, noisy, dangerous, and expensive. Suburbs are also ugly, but most of them could become more-or-less self sustaining communities, thereby eliminating the "need" for automobiles.

3. The idea that trucks, busses, bicyclists, pedestrians of all ages and abilities (with or without strollers, shopping carts, and luggage), and automobiles driven by late-to-work commuters or lost Tourons can peacefully co-exist is, well, a non-starter. As Tim mentioned, we need dedicated transit, pedestrian, and automotive routes. There is less-than-zero logic in designing an urban setting where a child cannot cross the street safely, let alone ride their bike to school.

4. All the revenue that the city looses from auto-related activities could be recovered by fining cyclists who ride on sidewalks, break traffic laws, and don't have the sense of a goose to wear a helmet.

Posted by TrollKiller on May. 09, 2013 @ 11:05 am