Monday, April 22, 2013

If You Wanna Have A Cycling Movement You Need To Ride Like A Girl

Google Alerts brought me this little gem from an Australian radio station--an interview with Dr. Anne Lusk from the Harvard School of Public Health. She advocates "social cycle tracks" where two people can ride side by side. This sounds ideal for parents riding with children and just plain out pleasant for everybody else. This is also the "feminine" way to ride, according to the doctor. Women want to be able to ride next to their children or partners. Women also ride heavier bikes laden with stuff, but that pretty much describes any commuter to me. If you're commuting to work, you might carry a change of clothes on your bike (I usually carried a change of shoes) and you might stop by the store on your way home (my previous workplace was close to a an international farmer's market and an Aldi's).

Where I find myself in agreement with Dr. Lusk, is on the subject of risk aversion. There were a few intersections in Marietta where I always crossed at the crosswalk just so everybody on the road would have a clear indication of what I was going to be doing, crossing the street. Still, I almost got smooshed one night because a motorist wasn't paying attention to the signal light or me and almost turned right into me. Once, crossing the street with a couple pushing their baby in a stroller, the husband commented on the driver who seemed impatient and indignant at our progress. He said something to the effect of, "It's like they don't want you to cross the street!" I think it often feels like, "They don't want us in the streets, period."

Who wants to feel like an insurgent every time they get on their bike? All the cycling-related classes and a PhD in street smarts aren't going to change this because confidence in one's abilities and an aggressive attitude towards traffic are two different things entirely. Some good bike infrastructure would eliminate the need for a warrior mentality,* reduce risk, and increase the number of cyclists.

*I can't say I've ever acted like a warrior while on my bike. Sometimes I feel it's necessary to adopt a gangsta "eff you" attitude while riding in substantial traffic and sometimes I mollify myself after a driver has behaved rudely or dangerously towards me by imaging that I have the power to summon buzzards to fly over them and poop on their car.


She Rides a Bike said...

Great post and very timely given the bike advocacy work I'm doing here in Phoenix, which has all the same car-centric issues as Atlanta (minus the humidity).

Courtnee said...

Thanks and good luck in your work!

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Maira Gall