Ever since Russian drivers taught us the usefulness of never turning off your GoPro, the internets are blowing up with helmet cam videos of mid-ride encounters with harassing, threatening, and plain crazy drivers. The news media has picked up on it, and, in a handful of cases, the authorities are busting the assailants, although sometimes the cops press charges for posting the video. Luckily, if The Man isn’t on our side the Russians showed us how to handle it.
The videos of people driving angry I don’t find all that shocking. I learned to drive growing up in downtown Boston, where we were taught to have our hands at 12:00 and 2:00, with the middle finger of our top hand permanently extended. We all know there are no shortage of people whose short temper, entitlement, ignorance, selfishness, sociopathy, and/or lack of hugs are going to make them a threat to whatever poor shmuck lands in their literal or figurative path.
I’ve long interpreted the Prime Directive regarding interference with less developed life forms to include, “Never read the comment section.” However, take a look at any YouTube video, news story, or facebook post about some cyclist who almost got killed, and you will find loads of people chiming in, “Damn straight. Kill ’em.”
The folks at BikeLaw.com pointed out this phenonemon and asked, “Bike Haters, Born or Made?” They not so subtly suggest that the issue is that such posters are homophobic (we wear spandex), poor (socioeconomic status – bonus points for extra syllables), country folk (city mouse rides a bike, country mouse is actually a cat), who uphold the rule of law (running lights and riding two abreast is antagonistic!), and, duh, they are fat. MOST KIDS ride a bike, so where along the line do they end up hating it as adults?
Not surprisingly, a thoughtful commentator was quick to opine that that the attorney must actually be a member of some kind of barbeque special forces unit. At least, I presume that’s what a “rump ranger” is.
The hatred, and for that matter, the indelicate phrasing of the question, isn’t about bikes at all. Cyclists are an easily identifiable “other.” That thing you are riding isn’t a bike, its a giant sign between your legs saying you support everything they hate. It goes both ways, too: the comments on my Dating a Cyclist critique predictably degenerated into angry postulations about the sort of ignorant scum who drive dualies. Which then became a fight between earth-hating out-of-shape dudes who do shuttle rides, and the smug, leg shaving d-bags who ride recumbents with a helmet mirror. (Okay, I made up that last part, but, seriously, who isn’t tempted to squash a dude pedaling a hammock?)
Australian pros on proper fighting technique
Thus, all the bike hate isn’t about running lights (which I completely believe in) or wearing tight shorts (although it may cause my wife to maim me). It’s about how many people hate everyone who thinks differently from them, and are so angry about it that they need to scream into the void if only to crush one more soul. What’s more problematic is how these outbursts are rife even within our chamois cream stained, deviant subculture. Mountain bikers and roadies; racers, serious racers, and you know, REAL racers; cyclocross fanatics and non-alcoholics – you see it all the time. Somehow a discussion about electronic XTR turns into a rant about how much everyone in SoCal sucks. We are not having disagreements about anything to do with bikes, we are having disagreements about where your mom can put it.
This isn’t going to be fixed by riding like sheep or collecting a bazillion hours of GoPro footage and jailing every driver out there. We can’t make them hate us less. However, we could try, maybe even just here, to make a point of not screaming about how much we hate each other.