Like any minority, as we work to move bicycles from an “alternative” mode of travel to a more widely used and mainstream transportation choice, we will be forced to defend deeply entrenched misconceptions and negative stereotypes.
Even in Portland, America’s most bike-friendly city, many folks still lump anyone who uses a bicycle into one big group of Critical Mass-loving, rampant law-breaking fanatics.
When faced with these outdated and untrue ideas I get frustrated, but then I realize that this is a major barrier to moving the bicycle dialogue forward and I simply cannot ignore it.
The most recent example of this is a post I just read on the NW Republican blog. The author of the post had just heard an OPB story about the BTA’s Senate Bill 299, which includes the three-foot passing proposal.
While it would be easy to brush off that post in the same way some in the community told me to not antagonize the Jammin 95.5 shock jock, I feel the misconceptions illustrated in it are important to address.
After all, if we cannot constructively engage those who don’t share our affinity for pedal-power, especially when their perspectives are shaped by misconceptions, than we will never be able to take major steps forward and we will remain a marginalized minority always fighting to defend ourselves both in the court of public opinion, and on our roads.
Do you think these misconceptions about “bicyclists” are a real barrier to moving bicycle use forward in Portland? If so, how can we shift the dialogue?