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My Encounter with a Bikeist

March 19, 2012

Bike Path Fire

Racism, sexism, classism – there’s a heap of outdated and offensive attitudes still floating around out there and this weekend I came face-to-face with an ugly one close to my heart: Bikeism.

I knew it existed of course, just didn’t know it had a name. You come across the “bikes shouldn’t be on the road” mantra sooner or later but this incident was very close to home both figuratively & literally.

I had just run an errand and was cruising along, happy in my world (as I usually am on two wheels). Braking with my left hand I indicated my right turn to the approaching car. He stopped in the middle of the road, right indicator flashing, but as he made no move to turn into the driveways opposite (and was sitting stationary) I gingerly turned into my street in front of his vehicle. I say “gingerly” because as he hadn’t turned I half expected him to take-off again and I was conscious of a head-on collision.

At this stage I’d already filed him under “unskilled/overcautious/but ultimately not that dangerous” when the lady in the passenger seat throws up her arms in disgust.

At that point I’ve moved on from “frustrated” to “pissed off”,  so despite promising myself not to confront motorists (because ultimately it serves no purpose) I u-turn and pedal back to see what I did to upset her so.

They have now exited the car, 20m up the road from where they stopped (to wrongly give way to me). “What did I do wrong?” I ask. “Why did you throw up your arms at me? I signalled my turn? I wasn’t going fast?”. After some back and forth with the husband (defending his wife, and I expected that) she shouts back this gem:

Well that was the end of the discussion really, how can you respond to a statement like that? It deserves to be printed on a t-shirt. I turned around, rode the 50m back to my house and made a cup-of-tea. What would you have said?

I think for the most part you can’t change ingrained attitudes like that. These people believe nig-nogs should be back on the boat, women back in the kitchen and bikes back on the footpath, but if we make it perfectly clear they’re in the minority will they keep their opinions to themselves and tow-the-line? I’d like to think so.

So I got angry, I got depressed and eventually I got motivated. Emotions need a bit of a work-out every now and then to spark you up – not a bad thing after all.

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