“They behave as if they are lords of the universe.” describes Melanie Phillips for the Daily Mail. According to Phillips, cyclists are “Arrogant, abusive and oh-so-smug”, and a demographic or cult rather, that “think they are above the law.”. These are a sample of the allegations she bombards the majority of cyclists with in her 2012 opinion piece on cyclists being pricks. However, she’s not alone in her accusations. Despite her delivery being a bit overbearing, her accusations aren’t unwarranted, or even unfounded for that matter. Urban cyclists have made a name for themselves that doesn’t necessarily roll off the tongue sweetly. Recognized as nothing more than ruthless street hounds, to some it’s about time we delve into some hypotheses on why cyclists entertain the etiquette they do.
If you’ve ever been cut off by a cyclist as a driver or knocked down by one as a pedestrian then unless you’re of a higher, more forgiving echelon, you’re probably still harboring contempt for your assailant. Just know you’re not alone, according to The Times cyclist inflict nearly the same amount of risks as drivers relative to their distance traveled. The question of many victims involved in cyclist to pedestrian related collisions is no longer “was it my fault?”, but instead, why must cyclist be such homicidal tyrants?
It’s important to look at the overall essence of cycling and cycling culture. For road cyclists and urban commuters such as messengers, the whole name of the game is speed and therefore aggression. Riders have places to be, and times to be there for. They even disregard the company's projected delivery time in order to fulfill their own personal speed trials, all in the name of ego. With speed and aggression obviously comes the disregard for those around them, literally cutting corners within the realm of common courtesy, overtaking drivers from the inside, cutting off pedestrians, running red lights and riding against the grain of traffic to name a few. All of these may seem like they’re nothing more than obscene ways of riding, and don’t get me wrong, they might be, however, they’re ways of materializing an adrenaline-filled raceway out of nothing more than what the urban setting provides. Riders read traffic, both automobile and pedestrian, and visualize routes and therefore behaviors necessary to push through the bustle ahead of its pace. It’s unquestionably self-righteous but cycling really is a sport centered around man, his machine, his environment and his response to said environment; and by man, we mean humankind, cyclist aggression knows no gender boundaries, if you’re in the zone, riding aside speeding beasts of metal, man or woman, you’re going to have to get aggressive, picking up the pace of everything directly beside you or you’re going to get pummeled by the stampede.
Now that the riding style seems fairly justified, the case against cyclists should’ve disintegrated, right? Sadly, no. Cyclists get a worst wrap off the road than they do while on it. To many, the arrogance, belligerence and lofty attitude doesn’t stop once they get off their saddle, rather it morphs in presentation. What was once a discourteous traffic infraction now becomes a middle finger to the face when asked to leave one’s bike outside.
Astonishingly, cyclists have the ability to be not only hostile while riding but cheeky as well. Cyclists are undoubtedly some of the most skillful multi-taskers out there; they might yell a flagrant f-bomb, turned toward you with the finger all the while pedaling forward at about 20 miles per hour. We honestly wouldn’t be surprised if their arrogance came from them acknowledging their ability to perform such a high demanding act of disrespect so gracefully.
Perhaps it’s just the synergy of empowerment and entitlement. Across the world, there are only a few municipalities that govern the way cyclists behave. San Francisco for instance requires all cyclists to obey traffic laws almost identical to motorized vehicles. But if there is absolutely no legal entity requiring you to stop for pedestrians, stop in front of crosswalks, or stop at lights then there’s no question why cyclists cycle noses high with a sense of empowerment. Entitlement comes into play when considering the more flattering assets of cycling such as no carbon dioxide emissions and the ostensible healthier, greener lifestyle one leads as a routine cyclist.
With that said, maybe cyclists are just mad at the world. Fuming, nagging and sassing about how hopeless it all is. Not in a manner that even dare resemble an infant but with a poise and purpose mimicking that of a weary cynic. ;)