Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I’d like to talk with all of you about something that’s been bugging me…and this time it’s not about motorists vs. cyclists.

I’ve been a cyclist for upwards of 30 years, and I’ve experienced a lot of different cycling disciplines and cultures…from BMX racing and freestyle in the late 70s/early 80s to road racing in the mid- to late 80s, mountain biking in the early 90s, commuting, cargo-hauling, joyriding, beach cruising, urban assault and pretty much every other conceivable flavor. I’ve owned and appreciated many bikes in that time…road, mountain, fixed and free, singlespeed and bikes with dozens of gears.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to feel that all is not well in U.S. cycling culture. We’re at a crossroads like we were in the 1970s “bike boom” years — transportational cycling is making huge strides in U.S. cities and there are literally hundreds of advocacy groups clamoring for improvements. Urban cycling is HUGE — from sleek European uprights to the must-have fashion accessory for young citydwellers: the fixed gear bike. Media attention has focused on cycling like no other time in my recollection…road racing is televised fairly regularly and not a day goes by that there’s not a bike fashion or advocacy/health benefit/money-saving article in a major newspaper.

So why, then, is there so much friction within the world of cycling? In my 30+ years, I’ve witnessed the “us vs. them” mentality more times than I care to remember. Just off the top of my head, I’ve seen:

BMXers vs. fixed-gear freestylers
Roadies vs. mountain bikers
Bike geeks vs. “fashionistas”

Gearies vs. fixies

Commuters vs. racers
Vehicular cyclists vs. fans of road infrastructure

There are surely dozens more. Think about it: whatever discipline you partake in, there’s almost always an accompanying “us vs. them” attitude. I’m as guilty as anyone in this…I can’t pass a recumbent cyclist without making a smartass comment like “you’re laying down on the job!” Certainly, some of this “us vs. them” mentality is lighthearted — after all, many disciplines of cycling are competitive, and that spirit of competition breeds such a mindset.

Where I worry most is in thinking that such a mentality is divisive at a time when we ALL need to band together to fight for equal footing amongst road users — what do you think? Here are some other questions to help kick off a conversation: Is this a U.S.-only phenomenon, or do similar “us vs. them” mentalities exist elsewhere? Is it simply human nature to question folks who act differently or do things differently than us? Is this mentality really as damaging as I fear? Call it the “armchair sociologist” in me, but I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on this — feel free to answer or comment on these and other questions as you think of them. If you’re writing in from outside the U.S., please indicate that in your comments.


55 Comments

  1. Doohickie December 14, 2009 9:01 pm 

    You worry too much. Just ride, baby.

  2. Clinton December 14, 2009 9:15 pm 

    I have a cyclocross bike, full suspension mountain bike, and a fixed/ss track bike (with brakes thank you). I love them all. Different bikes for different purposes. I wouldn’t want to ride the fixed off-road or on a hilly century ride but it’s a fast and fun city bike for running around car free and I typically don’t need to worry about anything other than oiling a chain. My cx bike with thin slicks is great for long rides in the hills or with some fatter tread can explore fire roads and most single track. The full suspension is for the more technical trail and bombing down off-road descents.
    I wish I could afford a dedicated road bike (mmm…carbon) and I’d like a singlespeed 29er hardtail too.

    I’d totally ride a recumbent but I’m afraid I don’t have enough facial hair.

    – yeah I’m not helping am I…

  3. Ghost Rider December 14, 2009 9:17 pm 

    I forgot to add “if you’re on a bike, you’re OK in my book, regardless of what you’re riding”. I probably worry too much, but I’d love to find a way for ALL of us to come together.

  4. Dean Peddle December 14, 2009 9:22 pm 

    I’m with you Ghosty. I see the same problems even up here in Canada. Not only do I see it on the roads when riding and seeing a different type of cyclist….but also even in the shops which seem to cater to certain groups. I’m like you…I own fixed gear bikes, dutch bikes, fold up bikes and even high end racing bikes. Sometimes I will ride the dutch or foldy in my street clothes and others I will slap on the “pro kit” and ride the racer. But if I’m in my street clothes then the racer crowd won’t acknoledge me and if I’m on my racer the street clothes crowd won’t acknoledge me. Even on the blogs these 2 crowds seem to have issues with each other. WE ALL RIDE A BIKE and that’s all that should matter. I think it stems down to what you said….we question those that act different than us.

  5. Marla Gnarla December 14, 2009 9:36 pm 

    For some reason I think about motorcycles. When I used to ride one I noticed that most every motorcyclist waved at any other motorcyclist.

    When riding a bicycle, I subscribe to the same idea. Wave or nod to all bicyclists. Yet, I notice most do not reciprocate.

    I’m not sure why.

  6. ha1ku December 14, 2009 9:58 pm 

    I don’t pay any attention to in-fighting amongst cyclists. I’m too busy trying to get from point A to point B in one piece.

  7. Gabriel December 14, 2009 10:43 pm 

    If you’re pedaling it — from a Big Wheel to a Madone — you get a smile and a wave from me. Some folks just don’t feel the same way, but what can I do about that?

    Smile, and wave.

  8. RL December 14, 2009 11:26 pm 

    Thanks for touching on this Jack. I personally can’t stand the “elitist” that we get commenting on this site. Its a shame that one rider’s comments can really leave an impression on the rest of us.

    What I hate are the ones that think a “real” commuter bike has to have fenders and a rack. Well to those people that think that, I say, “no!” There’s no RULE stating that a bike HAS TO have those items to make it a commuter bike.

    The other types I can’t stand are the ones that think fixed gear riders are posers and etc. Seriously man, get off your high horse and embrace the fact they’re riding bikes. Guess what, the same fixed gear bikes you see on the road were probably made by the same factory that made your bike.

    By the way, I ride a foldable, fixed gear, road bike, a cargo bike, beach cruiser, a mountain bike and I’m a downhill racer, (2009 Shimano Winter Series and SRC Champion). I ride so many bikes and yes I have a car. But I can’t park my car in the garage because I have way too many bikes….

    Phew, got that off my chest. Now I feel way better.

    Thanks Jack, you’re like a shrink on wheels!

  9. Paul December 15, 2009 12:33 am 

    What Marla said I agree with about acknowledging other people riding their bikes, I too have nod a few times without being reciprocated, but here in Austin all the streets seem to be highway wide even in residental areas and your are at least 50ft away from the passing cyclist and trying hard not to be mowed down by any of the HUNDREDS of clueless, cell phone/texting/makeup applying/eating people pretending to look out the windshield and drive! I also given up on group rides because if you are on the wrong bike, wrong age, wrong clothes, wrong cause the other riders pretty much ignore you and don’t make you feel like part of the group. Like Jack said, why can’t we all get along! I’m on my bike, which should be more than enough!! While I visited my cousin in Copenhagen, I saw all kinds of people on bikes and to them a bike is a tool to get around, not an obsession like we north americans tend to be about our bikes/cars/houses/flat screen TV/phones, etc.

  10. Andreas December 15, 2009 3:52 am 

    I second this motion! Too much infighting in the cycling community! Well done for putting a post together on it, it made for good reading. I think most of it is just harmless banter though which at times can be quite funny

  11. llewelyn December 15, 2009 4:06 am 

    HE! he! funny what people say and do when things (bicycles) become part of a “new culture”.I’ve been peed off with the steel versus aluminium mindset I’ve owned nothing but steel since about 1960 and was amazed at how light , yet strong my “alu” framed mountain bike is.I use it for offroad and on road touring.Fully decked out, but still get the, “why haven’t you got a steel bike , say a surly”Shit I love cycling not the fashion.Wake up world.

  12. Ghost Rider December 15, 2009 4:21 am 

    @Andreas — another good point. A lot of the banter IS meant to be harmless and funny. Some folks, like Bike Snob NYC, get the right balance of poking fun at the various elements and factions of cycling. Others, like too many group rides and clubs, get it wrong by shunning those who don’t subscribe to their particular flavor of riding.

    @Paul — too bad you’re not here in Florida. We’ve got a club that takes all comers — from beach cruisers to trikes to racing bikes. It was recently featured in Bicycling Magazine.

  13. js December 15, 2009 5:51 am 

    You are right. But just as the bikes we use are different, so are many of the reasons why we ride. Do you think that a competitive mindset tends to alienate groups that should collaborate? Does it affect the policies we advocate or fail to advocate together? I would suspect that many cyclists are not as interested in cycling advocacy as others, such as daily commuters. But I am not sure. I personally know exceptions.

  14. Clinton December 15, 2009 5:55 am 

    @Ghost Rider – Damn SHBC, those guys are really awful. Trying to be inclusive and just having fun. Who do those people think they are anyways?

    If the sarcasm wasn’t obvious enough – I have no issue with the Seminole Height Bicycle Club. I like what they’re trying to promote and if they had rides in the evenings I’d be happy to ride with them. But Saturday mornings, there are just too many options. Weekends are for the mountain bike, long fast rides with the road bike, or maybe like this last Sat an alleycat with the singlespeed.

  15. Jason Kearney December 15, 2009 6:22 am 

    I’ve been riding for almost twenty years as an adult, and what gets me is the snobbery I see on the road. Someone already said this, but when I’m riding my high end racing bike, I’m okay, but if I’m on my commuter, I get condescending looks from dudes in their racing kits. That is, until they see that my commuter is a flat bar Orbea, then I’m cool too. When I’m riding my single speed, forget it–they’re not going to talk to me. But I don’t care, I just love to ride my bike.

  16. dukiebiddle December 15, 2009 6:52 am 

    None of this stuff effects you if you just ignore all other riders like me. 😉 I’m half kidding, but no, I’m not a nodder or a waver. When I drove I didn’t wave at all the other drivers, when I walk I don’t nod all the other pedestrians and I don’t care for doing it on a bike either. I don’t sneer at or condescend to any type of riding, but if you wave or nod at me there will be a pregnant pause before I give back an annoyed nod or don’t do anything at all. I don’t dislike you. I don’t disrespect whatever tribe you belong to, but nodding and waving to every passing cyclist is stupid and annoys me and I’m not going to play along. It has nothing to do with your carbon fiber BMX Dutch city bike or your Lycra tweed orange vest outfit. Those riders that are doing the same thing as me aren’t necessarily sneering at you. Perhaps they’re just out enjoying themselves. Stop bothering us. :-)

  17. John Romeo Alpha December 15, 2009 6:57 am 

    Gabriel hit the nail on the head–smile and wave at everyone. I engineer confusion among the diehards by riding my different types of bikes and greeting everyone equally. I say, ride what works, and bid peace to all mankind. I’ve found it useful to differentiate my expectations of a greeting in reply based on recognizing who is just riding a bike vs. who is making some kind of statement. Then, within the making a statement crew, whose statement is still of the “peace to all mankind” vein, vs. the “you’re not one of us” vein. I still greet everyone, but set my expectations low for a warm reply from the “you’re not one of us” crew. Then I am pleasantly surprised whenever my low expectations are exceeded with a warm reply.

  18. Brian December 15, 2009 7:05 am 

    Aren’t all recumbents sold with a free beard trimmer?

    I think it’s all just part of the human condition, and that “problem” you describe is actually a symptom a culture that is healthy and alive. That it’s participants are emotionally invested in their lifestyle.

    “These are great days we’re livin’ in, bros!”

  19. dukiebiddle December 15, 2009 7:21 am 

    To you wavers and nodders, let me clarify. Cycling is meditative to me. Waving and nodding disrupts that state far more than navigating traffic. I’m thinking your perception of snobbery from those who don’t want to disrupt their zone is often imagined. There are lots of social options for cyclists. When I ignore you don’t presume it has anything to do with tribalism. It doesn’t. I’m just happy and don’t disrupt that happiness by flapping my arms around or bobbing my head just because some other rider feels it is necessary.

  20. Ghost Rider December 15, 2009 7:22 am 

    I’m with Gabriel and JRA — perhaps I’m a more social creature, but I wave or give the “head nod” to every cyclist I run across — I don’t expect anything in return, but I try to spread the goodwill…after all, there are SO FEW of us transportational cyclists here in SW Florida!

    @dukie — comparing greetings between cyclists and motorists is way off — there are millions of motorists, whereas there are not nearly as many cyclists out on the road. Those few hardy souls deserve some recognition amongst the fume-spewers. Still, when I was a driver, I’ve waved at my share of fellow motorists (ones driving interesting vehicles, at least).

    My concerns don’t necessarily revolve around acknowledging other cyclists out on the road, though — more that there is friction between factions online, in advocacy groups and elsewhere. Obviously, we can’t come up with one solution that encompasses every possible flavor, but we can and should band together more than we currently do.

    @JS — yes, good point. There are plenty of recreational cyclists who would never think of using a bike as transportation. I know quite a few, actually — and because they’ve never considered it, they’re blissfully unaware of the need for road-sharing/infrastructure advocacy.

  21. Iron_Man December 15, 2009 7:26 am 

    Sheesh, I’m conflicted within myself. Recently my road bikes have had to be sidelined due to maintenance issues, so I’ve had to jump on my full suspension mountain bike. That thing is like driving a Hummer. My initial thoughts were “You can’t ride a FS mountain bike for a commuter…you’ll look stupid!” But I didn’t have much choice. Then it became “You can’t wear your roadie kit—bibs, tights, etc—on a mountain bike. You’ll look like such a poser!” Ultimately I just don’t care how goofy I might look. Most of that turmoil is internal as other cyclists don’t care what I’m wearing or what I’m riding. I’m riding, that’s enough for them. And that’s enough for me with other riders.

    Although an adult commuter on a BMX still looks really silly to me. :)

  22. Cyclin' Missy December 15, 2009 7:27 am 

    I think your question is particularly interesting because, I would guess, most cyclists ride more than one discipline themselves. So why all the animosity toward different disciplines?

  23. Robin December 15, 2009 7:47 am 

    Putting the infrastructure vs vehicular cyclists on this list is not appropriate. For one rider who wears different clothes then another or rides a different style bike to look down on others for no good reason is silly. Vehicular and infrastructure cyclists have a genuine concern for the safety of riders and have a VERY different idea of how that safety can be accomplished. There is a real debate, with objective truth and statistical sparring happening that is having a real affect on how people ride and how city budgets are spent. Vehicular cyclists like myself are trying to educate people so they don’t get killed or kill others, not sneering at another cyclist because their tires are too fat. If you are riding in the door zone, the wrong way, or on the sidewalk, I will not look down at you, but I do recommend you find a certified instructor and learn the rules of the road so we can all ride safer.

  24. Melanie December 15, 2009 7:50 am 

    Great topic for a post, Jack! This subject of cycling “subcultures” and infighting has been bothering me for quite some time now.

    I would classify myself as a “hybrid” type of rider – one who races, commutes, and generally tinkers around town on different kinds of bicycles. Indeed, the point that some of the comments made about receiving different kinds of acknowledgments from other riders depending on one’s attire/bicycle seems to be true for me as well. However, I almost wonder if this is due to some internal preconceptions and biases we already have about ourselves when we ride in different gear/bikes that manifest themselves in our interactions with others and also dictate how we act. Perhaps this is one element of it, anyhow.

    Nonetheless, I have interacted with a wide assortment of “types” in the cycling world. In many cases, biases and infighting are really not as “real” as we might think they are. When we are off our bikes, face-to-face, most “types” of riders can find some common points to agree upon as far as the cycling movement is concerned.

    And as for the notion of cycling “subcultures”, while some would argue that they are bad for cycling, I would generally argue that a little diversity is good. If it’s good for ecosystems, why shouldn’t it be good for cycling too? Indeed, a little infighting means there is emotional investment and passion involved, and healthy competition generally leads to improvement. So hopefully cycling is going through a growing spurt – which is a tad bit uncomfortable at times – but which will result in larger, stronger, healthier cycling overall.

  25. dukiebiddle December 15, 2009 8:12 am 

    ghost rider, the comments were directed that the commentors saying that everyone should be waving and greeting, and I’ll still respectfully disagree about deserving recognition for being hardy souls, as I’m sort of opposed to pretending cycling is more of a hardship than it really is. If it was a hardship I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m not sure why I should be compelled to engage in behavior that takes away from my riding experience. Because people deserve to have me flap my arms and bobble my head at them?

    As for different clothing tribes or whatever, I just don’t care much in any direction. But like Robin above said, there are some aspects and conflicting philosophies that are important and in genuine conflict with one another, such as the VC/Infrastructure conflict. Personally, I think to be too dogmatic in the support of either of those two schools is ridiculous – but what is the proper way to deal with the fact that these two schools genuinely believe that the *other* is destructive to cycling and safety.

  26. db December 15, 2009 9:11 am 

    It’s part of human nature. People use all sorts of life’s aspects to set themselves apart from others and to form exclusive groups — nationality/regionality, ethnicity/race, religion, school alliances, economic status, athletics, etc.

    I gave up trying to stop it a long time ago. A lot of people who call me a loser when they see me trundling along on my weather-beaten commuter will call me an elitist jerk or out-of-control maniac when I’m out on my crit road bike.

  27. Ghost Rider December 15, 2009 9:28 am 

    “an adult commuter on a BMX still looks really silly to me.”

    There is a RASH of these guys here in Tampa. Has the economy gotten that bad? Poor guys having to borrow their daughter’s pink BMX bike?

  28. dukiebiddle December 15, 2009 9:36 am 

    “There is a RASH of these guys here in Tampa. Has the economy gotten that bad? Poor guys having to borrow their daughter’s pink BMX bike?”

    Ghost Rider, read your own post! 😉

  29. Ghost Rider December 15, 2009 9:39 am 

    @dukie — just asking questions, not passing judgement. There’s a huge uptick in the number of adults riding BMX bikes and I simply wonder why? But, ya got me — old habits of poking fun die hard around here.

    @Robin, you may very well be in the minority with your attitudes concerning VCers vs. infrastructurists. As Dukie mentioned, each side seems to be vehemently opposed to what the other side is clamoring for…and that’s been my experience, as well. The conflict definitely belongs on my list.

    Besides, it was a great excuse to link once again to Elliott’s fantastic essay (I did so late last week, too) on how both sides have a point and that there IS a middle ground in there.

  30. dukiebiddle December 15, 2009 9:43 am 

    Has anyone ever seen that Youtube video where VC instructors are teaching a class how bike lanes kill”!”? Hilarious.

  31. Ian December 15, 2009 9:50 am 

    Let’s face it, a lot of cyclists are individualists and on some level like being different than the average person.

    If you like being different, then you are still going to want to be different from everyone even other cyclists, eg. I ride single gear/road bike/dutch commute/cyclocross/penny farthing so I am not like all these other posers. I am a unique special snowflake who has drop bars on my dutch commuter bike kind of thing.

    There is nothing wrong with it as long as all cyclists can pull together for important issues like Infrastructure and Beer. Give each other a hard time, but still present a unified face to the outside world and occasionally have a drink and argue over who is really the most hardcore.

  32. bikingbill December 15, 2009 11:15 am 

    Don’t forget about us Recumbent Cyclists. We can be very annoying too…. :-)

    Yeah, lying down on the job.

    Seriously, great post.

  33. Matt December 15, 2009 11:23 am 

    @ Ian –

    If you have drop bars on your omafiets you’ll definitely get a nod from me… but it’s going to be a “be nice to the weird man” type of nod!

    @ Jack –
    I’ve noticed this a lot around here since I ride to work and back on a paved multi-use trail that a lot of roadies use for their pre/after-work rides. The commuters often nod to each other, but the roadies just spin on by. Maybe they’re too deep in the zone? Who knows…

  34. Kagi December 15, 2009 11:29 am 

    +1 to Robin — the VC vs. infrastructure-advocate debate is a different kind of distinction from the others. My 2¢: I’m a vehicular cyclist. I’m even a LAB instructor. I teach vehicular cycling because it works on the roads we’ve got. BUT — I recognize that most people will never get out there on the roads we’ve got, and I don’t think they should have to. And I don’t think that GOOD bike infrastructure is a threat to vehicular cycling — in fact, if more people start biking on cycle tracks, cycling will become more a normal part of life in the USA and drivers will probably be more likely to treat vehicular cyclists well. That’s how it has worked in Holland, anyway — the exact opposite of Forester’s doomsday scenario. So, I’d like to encourage my fellow VC folks to get behind political efforts for better infrastructure. It’ll help you, too, in the long run.

  35. Deb December 15, 2009 2:48 pm 

    I don’t notice animosity, not even at the bike shop, where the annoy me with their lectures. I don’t ride socially, but I’ve met a few of my fellow commuters, and we’re all vastly different. From the weather we consider reasonable to ride in to whether we ride beaters or our fancy new carbon fiber bikes and the whole range of every other possible detail, but I’ve never gotten any sort of attitude from the other riders. Maybe there are just too few of us for us to be anything other than excited to see another, I don’t know. I’ve had someone who rides a carbon fiber bike and who treats most commutes like a race (I’m a plodder myself, and I ride a heavy bike) tell me numerous times that I inspire him. (I ride in all the weather conditions, and every day, so presumably this is inspiring.) And that sort of is par for the course in my experience, that it’s not about what you ride or how you ride or where you ride, just that you ride.

    I greet riders when I’m paying attention and see them, but I don’t take it personally if they don’t greet back. It’s completely different than greeting motorists, imo. I also greet the peds I see regularly. They are always startled at first, but after about the third time they get a big grin on their face when they see me.

    I’m not a very social person, so the greeting isn’t a social thing for me as much as a solidarity thing. And with the peds, perhaps it’s a bit of outreach. Those peds are almost guaranteed to also be drivers, after all, and if they know that cyclists are *people* not obstacles, I figure it will change the way they think of cyclists and thus the way they drive around them. (I know that this is true with my friends, since I started bike commuting. They tell me stories all the time about this or that bike commuter, and how they worry about this one because he’s not well lit and is riding at night, etc..)

    That was getting a bit off topic. I don’t know why I wrote all this, actually, because the answer to your post, for me, would be “I thought we DO all get along!” :)

  36. Joey December 15, 2009 11:40 pm 

    I agree, too much drama in the cycling world. I’m part of it I guess. Damn roadies!

  37. Elizabeth December 16, 2009 7:10 am 

    Great post… I kind of touched on my own personal debate of the cycling types. But we’re all riding, and that’s what counts and really unifies us.

    @Deb – outreach to peds – and motorists (I like to glance over when we’re stopped at a traffic light) – is key. They should know that we cyclists are *people* not obstacles. I, too, get the stories from friends now about cyclists they now notice (or barely notice) on the road.

  38. ksteinhoff December 16, 2009 9:32 am 

    I’m a nodder and a waver, too. Maybe it comes from growing up in a rural area where every car you meet would give you at least a two-finger raised off the steering wheel acknowledgement.

    If I’m at a stop light next to a car with a window down, I’ll always try to say something pleasant.

    When I pass folks working in their yards or walking their dogs, I’ll comment. Of course, I’m not riding 24 mph sniffing someone else’s lycra when I ride. (Oops, that just slipped out.)

    The only time I really got cranky was when a beat-up pickup came alongside me and the passenger yelled, “Get off the road.”

    Then he passed me and I saw two mud-splattered mountain bikes in the back of the truck.

    THAT was worth a smile and a wave back to them.

  39. dukiebiddle December 16, 2009 9:54 am 

    ksteinhoff, I’m fully upright and going 12 mph too, I’m just not nodding or waving. :-) If I wasn’t in an urban environment I might feel differently, but I’m not acknowledging every stranger I pass.

  40. Doug Jesseph December 16, 2009 11:02 am 

    FWIW, I think part of it has to do with the increase in the number of people cycling. The more people who ride, the greater the number of differences among riders, and a sort of balkinization ensues.

    For my part, the only cyclists I really find annoying are the ones who spend $10K on a bike they have no absolutely no idea how to ride or maintain. But why should I care if some guy spent a fortune on a Campy equipped full-carbon superbike without knowing how a quick release works? It’s his problem, not mine.

  41. Cody December 16, 2009 11:33 am 

    This has nothing to do with cycling. People want to be associated with one thing and then bash the others to further extend how much they are associated with their choice.

    Examples:
    * Politics
    * Religion
    * Hot Topic vs Abercrombie and Fitch (both expensive and stupid on both ends of the scale)

  42. Jamey December 16, 2009 12:31 pm 

    I agree with Cody up to a point–and that point stops at knee-jerk bashing of “the other.” My view is that there are two opposing schools of thought, but that the two are not equally valid.

    People want to cop whatever pose/persona is consistent with their self-image–and cycling becomes an extension of that projection. There are a lot of cyclists who don’t hew to any particular “group”: I race, train, commute, and joy ride my mother-in-law’s beach cruiser when I’m down the shore. In NYC where I do most of my riding, I see people behaving badly on fixies; they’re not cyclists, per se, even though they’re riding bicycles; they’re indulging in the fashion of the day.

    From my perspective, the main rift exists between those who ride responsibly–fast, defensively when the need arises, but not to the peril of others; and those who generally act like dicks irrespective whether they’re riding their fixie, ordering a beer at a watering hole, cutting ahead of you in line at a movie theater, etc.

    Road v. Mountain? Most folks I know do both; the supposed animus between the two died about fifteen years ago, when road bikes returned into favor. BMX v. fixie freestylers? Yeah, when Nicole Kidman was starring in BMX Bandits. Bike Geeks v. Fashionistas? Depends on what you consider a fashionista. One Copenhagen pic blog that shall remain nameless is popularizing style above all–leather soles on pedals; riding with a higher center of gravity as the inherently better cycling position; etc. That’s uck-fayed! “Geeks” get their dander up at that because it tends to undermine the legitimacy of cycling as anything but a fad. (I disagree to some extent; making cycling chic helps attain a critical mass of cyclists necessary to gaining momentum in policy-making circles.

    The rest? Woolies will always try to take the piss out of spandex-wearers, etc. If someone who doesn’t know sweet F-A about biking can pony up 10k for a two-wheeled douchebag lifestyle accessory, I say more power to them! They’re keeping my local shop in business. I taught some guy on a 2010 C-50 how to fix a flat. He was grateful and pleased to learn this essential skill. Far be it from me to discriminate against someone just because they lack exposure to biking culture in spite of their ability to pay any price…

  43. Ghost Rider December 16, 2009 1:01 pm 

    @Jamey — good insights. For the record, though, the conflicts you list as long-dead ARE current. The links I posted in the article above are all from the past month or so (with the exception of MTB vs. roadie…but I am familiar with many current examples of friction between those two camps).

  44. rjk December 16, 2009 2:50 pm 

    I think one reason we get all “veins in the teeth” about some of this is that the stakes are pretty high. We’re out there riding on the streets and in a very exposed position. We not only face inattentive multitasking drivers, but, at least in my opinion, an increase in the number of drivers who behave aggressively toward cyclists. I think the volume of the debate reflects the seriousness of the issue. We have very different ideas about what makes us safe on the street, but in the end, what we all want are safer streets. The volume will continue to rise on both sides until safety issues on the road improve.

  45. BluesCat December 16, 2009 3:40 pm 

    I don’t notice attitude from other riders when I’m out on the road, or from the folks at my LBS.

    I DO notice attitude from the bike press and the so-called “pundits,” especially when it comes to talking about such things as the “best” road bike or mountain bike.

    @Brian: (chuckle) One of my favorite bikes is a recumbent, and MY face is as smooth as a baby’s butt!

  46. Raiyn December 17, 2009 3:43 pm 

    While I have no love for fixed gears, the main me vs. them is cyclists vs. GOB’s (Guys on Bikes).

    @BluesCat
    Your face is rash-y and foul smelling? j/k I just never liked that expression.

  47. Stuart M. December 18, 2009 1:50 am 

    Japan is more like Holland . No one thinks bicycling is anything special. If you are a (poor) housewife, a teenager under age 18 or lost your drivers license for whatever reason, a cheap “mamachari” is your only option. Rarely do I see a Japanese on an expensive mountain bike or racing bike. The “fixie” craze has just hit Tokyo and everything takes a while to get to us in Hokkaido, so maybe there will be more bicycle variety on the Japanese streets soon. Unfortunately, the “multitaskers” here are usually the bicyclists! There are strict laws against using a cell phone while driving anything, but I often see young bicyclists with one hand on the handlebars and the other texting away. There is no greeting of other bicyclists. I usually apologize to pedestrians as I pass if I have to share a narrow sidewalk with them. Heck, the Japanese ask you if it’s okay to recline their seat if they are sitting in front of you in a train or airplane!

  48. BluesCat December 18, 2009 8:37 am 

    @Raiyn: I’m not sure I understand the GOB reference, but you reminded me of one altercation I DID have with another person on a bike. He was a scruffy character on a beat up Schwinn who went riding by flinging comments at me such as “Go back to Mexico” and “God bless America.” It took me a couple of seconds to realize he thought my long wheelbase recumbent was a cruiser bike like all the Hispanic kids ride. I was gonna catch up to him to set him straight, but I was already out of breath as a result of laughing so hard.

    Not sure that qualifies as an example of what Ghost Rider is talking about in this article.

    Oh, and maybe you are confused about that expression: it’s talking about TEXTURE, NOT appearance or olfactory quality!

  49. Chip Haynes December 18, 2009 9:29 am 

    With close to 7 billion people on Planet Earth, I think you’ll find everything is nothing but a loose collection of splinter groups. No two people truly agree on absolutely everything.

    I was riding in to work earlier this week, and stopped to see if I could help a guy fixing a flat on his racing bike. The group of racers he was with was more interstered in my 35-year old folding bike than I was in their like-new racing bikes, but we did have a good time all around making fun of the guy with the flat.

    See? It’s all about finding common ground.

  50. Raiyn December 20, 2009 2:04 pm 

    @BluesCat:
    I’ve explained this on the site before, but just to cover my bases…..
    “Guys on Bikes” is a blanket term to cover other categories including “salmon”, “bike ninjas”, “DUI Specials”, etc. Basically people who either don’t know proper technique / bike safety or couldn’t give the contents of a cat’s litter box to learn.
    In addition for the record : “guys on bikes” when used as a counterpoint to “cyclist” bears no deference to race, creed, gender, economic status, or any orientation other than direction in traffic.

    In regards to the baby’s butt thing: Yeah I got it, I was just playing around with the expression.

  51. BluesCat December 21, 2009 9:13 am 

    @Raiyn:
    Thumbs up. Thanks for the explanation, I kinda figured I knew the meaning of GOB, but I wanted to be sure we were talking about the same thing.

    LOL, yeah, when my first grandchild came into the world on August 28th of this year, I was … uh … reacquainted with the alternative meanings of “baby’s butt.”

  52. Powerful Pete December 23, 2009 10:31 am 

    I always say hello to all riders I meet. Whatever bike they are riding.

    We have enough trouble dealing with traffic and all the other road hazards without creating trouble for ourselves within the cycling community!

    Thing is, here in Rome it is not such a big deal – not too many mtb-ers in the area, so most people who ride are roadies.

    And anyway, better to be polite – you never know if that guy you are passing is going to be faster than you! 😉

  53. 2whls3spds December 24, 2009 5:26 am 

    I always acknowledge other people on bikes, regardless of who they are or what they are riding. If they choose not to acknowledge me that is their choice. As the years have progressed I have slowed a bit and enjoy life at a more reasonable pace. I have also gotten to know a few of my local riders, like John who is currently riding a pink Huffy mtb. He rides more miles in a week at 8mph than some roadies I know ride on a weekend. It is his only form of transportation and he lives 15 miles outside of town! Most people would assume he is a DUI loser, but they would be dead wrong. He is 68 years old and retired from factory work 5 years ago when the plant closed, he worked at that plant for 45 years. He lives on a piece of property that has been in his family for close to 100 years.

    Kagi back up in post #34 gets it. VC is good in many situations but doesn’t work in many others, if we want to have an increase in cycling we need properly designed infrastructure.

    IMHO the rabid VC people overlook the basics of physics and the attention span of today’s drivers.

    Aaron

  54. Barb Chamberlain December 24, 2009 11:11 pm 

    I just commented on a good piece by Neal Peirce on bike policy that has a similar divide in the comments there, between people who want separate infrastructure and people who advocate for riding as traffic: http://citiwire.net/post/1560

    Making it an either/or question is a great way to divide and conquer. Let the cyclists wrangle amongst themselves about bike paths and they won’t unite and say that all streets should work for all users.

    @BarbChamberlain
    @Bike2WrkSpokane
    http://www.biketoworkspokane.org

  55. BluesCat December 25, 2009 2:35 pm 

    I was going to avoid mixing it up here about VC vs. Infrastructure Cyclists (IC), but Barb’s spot-on comment about the VC vs. IC debate keeping cyclists themselves divided and conquered by the anti-bike transportation people rang a bell with me so here I go.

    On my commute to work, dedicated bike lanes are not necessarily the safest way to go; I discussed this in a post on the Recumbent Riders Social Club forum: http://rrsc.forumotion.com/commuting-f8/my-phoenix-commute-redux-t720.htm . Basically, the only way to make a separate bike infrastructure work is if you can keep it COMPLETELY SEPARATE. The second a bicyclist has to ride out of a separate infrastructure, and mix it up with motorized traffic, he or she is MORE at risk than if he or she was sharing the road at all times.

    We need to build a transportation system which provides useful, crosstown roads which put bicyclist’s needs ahead of motorist’s. Motorists AND bicyclists should be able to know, instantly, if the thoroughfare they are traveling gives priority to cars or to bikes. Separate, multi-use paths are okay, but ONLY if they empty out onto a Bikes First road.

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