I received a disturbing text from a reader this morning (trigger warning: language might be upsetting to some readers):
“Got yelled at by a guy on a bike on Better Naito today. He stopped in front of me to yell at me for being selfish. Apparently I was riding too slowly because I was unsure how to cross the lane to turn left onto Oak. Two blocks later I was called a faggot and spit on. It’s chaos out there and commuter race season has begun.”
Sigh. There’s a lot to unpack here.
If you’ve lived in Portland a while you know that as the sun creeps out in spring, everything changes for cycling. Not only is it physically and mentally much more appealing to ride bicycles this time of year compared to the darkness and moisture that pervade previous months on the calendar — but there is also just so much excitement around cycling in general. Pedalpalooza planning is in full swing, it’s National Bike Month, the Bike More Challenge is on many people’s minds. And heck, this year the folks who run Biketown decided to make it free for the entire month!
And these days, with tens of thousands of new Portlanders in town (Hi! Welcome!), there are even more people using bikeways who might not be as comfortable riding and navigating around on two wheels as many of you are.
Please be nice to them!
I know people who actually change the routes they take during this time of year specifically to avoid all the dreaded “newbies” who use the popular bikeways. People wait all year for better weather. And then it gets here and they feel like they still can’t ride in peace because of all the people suddenly pedaling around in front of them. I personally don’t get that. I love the crowds! But hey, different strokes for different folks. I’m fine with that. Just don’t be a jerk about it.
This anti-newbie culture, made so apparent in those insults shared by our reader on his ride into work this morning, is much stronger than you think. It’s gross and I wish it would stop.
Of course it doesn’t help that our cycling culture in America is draped in the same macho, speed-is-everything-BS that our car culture also suffers from. But I digress.
After texting back to that reader what might motivate someone to be so rude, he surmised. “It’s the elite attitude of this city’s ‘ardent’ bike commuters.” I think there’s some truth to that.
Yesterday on Twitter, our Mayor Ted Wheeler happily shared a photo of himself in City Hall after biking into work. But he made a fashion choice that led @zacconklin to respond with, “Nice try Ted, looks like you wore the wrong shoes for your pedals on this photo-op. If you actually rode your bike more you would realize that.”
Wow. Tough crowd.
Maybe if we’d all just relax a bit and be nicer — you know, if we’d just ride and act the way we always hope and pray (and demand!) that people drive — then maybe our streets be the humane spaces we all want them to be.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to riding with you — no matter how long you’ve been doing it.
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