Thursday 25 October 2012

Could we all stop apologising please?

I'm assuming, if you read this, that you're a cyclist.

I'm also assuming that other people know you're a cyclist.

If those two assumptions are correct then I know you've had this conversation. You'll have had it when you've ridden to work or to the pub, to the shops or to anywhere you're then talking to non cyclists. Perhaps you had this discussion as a reault of saying you got cut up or intimidated by a motorist, maybe it started when you were actually knocked off your bike by an inattentive motorist. It cold even just happen because you were taking off your cycle helmet. Doesn't take much.

You know the one.

"Oh, and those cyclists without lights..."
"Yes, and they never wait at red lights..."
"They're always on the pavement..."

The idea seems to be that an appropriate response to ANYTHING to do with cycling is to raise such complaints. At you. Such unprovoked ranting will frequently be accompanied by generally sympathetic 'we're totally in favour of cyclists' platitudes, usually shortly before laying in with yet another misnformed meander into 'road tax' or insurance.

I'm going to ask you to do something rather radical next time this happens.

I'm going to ask you to stop apologising for things that are neither your fault nor your responsibility.

Don't say 'but thats not me'. Don't say 'yes, thats right, but I don't red light jump'. Don't even say 'you have a point about riding on a pavement, I'd never do that.'. Stop it, you're falling in to their unintentional trap. You are reinforcing their prejudice against us by giving them the impression we ARE collectively responsible. If you apologise or even acknowledge being linked to these other cyclists then the people you're taking to will go away from this discussion with their preconceptions vindicated.

So do something else. Don't do what you'd normally want to do. Don't play nice. After all, in bringing these unrelated (and for the most part harmless) misdemeanours to your attention, your critic isn't playing nice. Why should you?

Here are some alternative responses:

"Gosh, really? A cyclist? On the pavement? Slaloming around all those parked cars? Good for him, hopefully he'll catch up with all the motons on the path and kick their teeth out".

"A cyclist? Going through a red light? Hardly surprising with the number of feckwits who'll try to squash him when the lights change. Good on him for realising that."

"You saw how many cyclists without lights? You saw how many cyclists without lights? Wow. I guess lights don't help after all. Thanks."

"Oh, just fuck off. Why are you bringing this shit to me? Do I complain to you about every driver in the cycle lane each and every speeding moton on the motorway? No? Then I stand by my earlier 'fuck off'".

Look at this another way. A black guy walks into a bar and complains to his white mates therein that he's been abused for being black. His white mates wouldn't dream of saying 'mind you, I saw a black guy keying a car a while ago'. They'd never do that because to do so displays simple, unremarkable prejudice; its not considered reasonable or rational to blame an individual of any racial group for the crimes of others, even by implication. And ultimately the aforementioned bellyaching about cyclist 'crimes' is just that; they're blaming us for these offences by association and using that as justification for their own prejudice. Thats how prejudice works, it feeds upon itself to maintain intensity.

Racists don't believe they're racist. Bigots don't proudly declare they're bigoted. Sexists don't shout from the rooftops that they're sexist. To these folk their prejudice seems rational and reasonable; of course, the more enlightened among us can readily cut to the chase and send them packing when they come out with such intolerance in otherwise polite company. Why the hell aren't we doing that with prejudice directed against us?


  1. It usually starts something like this.. "I'm not a racist/sexist/etc BUT.."

    1. Exactly. And we'd send anyone coming out with such a comment followed by blatant prejudice away with a flea in their ear. Or, depending on just how offensive, maybe even a report to the police for racial abuse. Yet we almost uniformly get apologetic in response to the same kind of prejudice directed towards -us-. And that ain't right :)

  2. I just point out the statistics. Bikes are disproportionately safe for pedestrians to be around and cars are disproportionately dangerous for everyone. It's the only conversation worth having. I normally start the comments with, "Yes, but obviously..." because it should be obvious.

  3. I never apologise for what they claim they see. If anything I question their logic or lack of.
    'I saw cyclists on the pavement', my reply is, was it a cycle path or a shared path? did you check before assuming?
    All cyclists jump red light! My reply is, do they? Do you have the evidence to back it as its faulty as I dont! what about all those cars that jump the lights too? Which is more dangerous.
    Bikes with no lights, my reply is bet you seen cars with no light on too?
    Best one I get is they're lycra louts, I look at them & ask do you see any lycra on me? No! You wont ever see me in that either with my spare tyre. :D

    By end of it they skulk off as I have blown their misconceptions out of the window. lol