Feed on

Shut up and ride!

I tell you there’s nothing like a group of cyclists to whip up a tempest in a teapot.

The most recent fuss and bother that finally penetrated my protective carapace of “not-giving-a-fuck” is a Facebook kerfuffle centered around a group of disgruntled motorists who just can’t stand sharing the road with cyclists and have therefore established a discussion group wherein they can grouse, gripe, and foment against bicycle riders. They post comments about wishing they could run bikes of the road and to regale each other with stories about what heckling they do allow themselves to indulge in.

Predictably, the legions of cyclists have got their collective chamois in a twist (what a disgusting thought!) A counter-group sprung up to encourage Facebook admin to delete the “anti-cyclist hate group,” but that movement went nowhere. The original group was not judged to be a hate group, their screed did not qualify as “hate speech,” and even though they are offensive to many, they are protected by that pesky Freedom of Speech thing.

Moreover, the stuff these guys are writing isn’t a bit different from the bile that spews in pretty much every article in the newspapers, on cycling news sites, even on personal blogs when a story is reported about an injury, harassment incident, or altercation. The “cagers” contend that cyclists need to get off the street, that it is for cars and the cyclists contend that they belong there. And they can argue about it endlessly in so many comments sections as long as there is an Internet to fight on.

But if cyclists want to start shit, and some of them very obviously do, then why should the opposing side be denied that same privilege? It’s just like the whole Rush Limbaugh/Pat Robertson/Ann Coulter contingent. They’re allowed to be as vile as they want, and everyone who doesn’t like it is allowed to state as loudly, vigorously, and often that they don’t approve. In fact, many of the opponents of the Limbaughian Pundits are every bit as vitriolic in their opposition. If they want to shut up the talking heads, then by rights they would have to shut up, as well.

If the cycling advocates want to force the anti-cycling advocates to shut up, then logically, they could be forced to shut up, too.

Seeking to silence someone you don’t agree with is whiny and cowardly. Who gives a good goddamn if a handful of loudmouths who can’t share want to make a stink on the Internet (where everyone can be the badass)? Their rhetoric doesn’t really affect anyone. They preach to a small choir and no matter how much bluster most of them will front online, very few of them will ever take any action offline. And the few who would take it offline would probably have been causing trouble with or without the internet. The bottom line is that there are mercifully few sociopaths in the world who will actually go around hurting others without fear of consequences. And fear of consequences (incarceration, possible execution) is sufficient to keep most people in line. The few who aren’t kept in line were probably beyond much hope anyway.

All that rising to the bait accomplishes is stoking the culture of fear. Too many people think of cycling as a dangerous activity and cyclist advocates who are constantly re-circulating stories of tragedy, violence, and aggression are only adding to that. I know I’m not the only person who thinks that riding your bike is the best possible cyclist advocacy there is. To hell with re-posting news clips, going to meetings and bellyaching to officious officials, and squalling on internet forums.

That kind of “advocacy” fosters a sort of victim mentality; a two-wheeled martyr complex. It basically amounts to slactivism. Posting opinions in letters-to-the-editor, fussing at public meetings, and burying your representatives’ mailboxes in “call-to-action” letters may make you feel like you’re doing something, but you’re really not. All any of that amounts to is shouting down a barrel.

If you really want to make a difference, encourage others. Don’t scare them off broadcasting all these horror stories, don’t rehash every close-call and harassment you’ve ever experienced. Invite a non-cyclist friend along on a fun ride. Organize a beginner-friendly event. Forward positive, fun stories about cycling. Show its best side. Sure, cycling has its inconveniences and hazards, but it isn’t and shouldn’t be all doom and gloom.

Go ride your bike. It may be the most subversive statement you could ever make.

Fashion statement? (photo courtesy of Joel, who thinks my dreadful fashion sense is amusing)

2 Responses to “Shut up and ride!”

  1. joel dyke says:

    you make too much sense. slactivisim what a perfect word to describe a lack of get up & do something.perfect!

    big grin…joel

  2. Meetzorp says:

    Well, I didn’t invent the word – I came across it in somebody’s well-written argument against e-mail petitions.

    Anyway, I was trying not to be too inflammatory, but also get a certain frustration out of my system without too much yelling, cussing, and breaking shit.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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