Hooray, Bikeyface is back! Boo, hobby cyclists and male commenters with their privilege showing.
I’m a feminist. I bike everywhere. I love bike commuting blogs and snarky web comics. Bikeyface is totally up my alley. The comments, on the other hand, can drive me up the wall. And I hate driving.
This week, Bikeyface is creeped up on (and out by) a random cyclist “drafting” in her blind spot, and the comment thread is a little too rife with law-breakers and boys who don’t understand the concept of unwanted attention. I couldn’t just let it go, but I also can’t bring myself to contribute negative commentary to a site that I admire for its positive angle on the woes of bike commuting. So I’m doing it here. Let’s start with the law.
Right away, the comments go into the cyclier than thou realm with a condescending remark about our author/illustrator not knowing what a peloton is. You know, I didn’t know what a peloton was … and I ride my bike thousands of miles every year. I looked it up. It’s a group of bicycle racers snugging up real close to reduce drag so they can go faster. I know Bikeyface is a Seattle commuter, but in the California driver’s handbook it’s called tailgating, and it is illegal.
As someone who cycles as their main form of transportation, I don’t appreciate vehicles illegally using public roadways to practice racing. This includes cars, and it includes bicycles.
For all the time, money, and energy hobby cyclists (yes, I am attempting to be snarky here) put into their gear and technique, I am frequently surprised at how little regard, or how little they actually know about the rules of the road. Running stop signs, riding too close, and riding too fast for traffic conditions are all very dangerous and illegal. In California, cyclists are subject to the same fines for committing these violations as motorists.
Now, the creeps…
I am not a woman, but I know quite a few of them. Every woman I have ever gotten to know remotely well has shared an unnerving story with me about a man that has made her feel unsafe (or worse). Most have told me more than one. Men are physically strong, and they are used to getting their way. Even the nice ones. Even me. This is a dangerous combination. The problem is, you can’t detect nice from proximity.
The bottom line, bare bones common courtesy you can show any woman (or any person for that matter) is to not make them feel unsafe. As a dude, this might require some empathy on your part. The things that make a woman feel unsafe are more subtle than what make a man unsafe. Things like walking down the same side of a street, sharing an elevator, or riding behind them uncomfortably close on a bike.
The simple fact is that women are targets of assault more frequently than men, and there is less than adequate infrastructure to support them when they are assaulted. They need to be more cautious of their environment. Do your part to make yourself less of a threat to half of our species. Don’t be a jerk, show some empathy, and people will like you better.