Monday, January 7, 2013

The Vacuumist

There’s an interesting way that individuals suddenly become the “other” when they choose to ride a bike. Here’s an interesting way to think about this idea:
I don’t think people think of themselves as bikers or cyclists. The bicycle is just a tool. It’s something that everyone has. I’ve heard one person refer to it as a like a vacuum. Everybody has a vacuum but nobody talks about it, nobody calls themselves a vacuumist. 
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this argument. When someone chooses to ride a bike more often than not or when there’s talk about improving bicycle facilities, we’re suddenly talking about “them,” “the other,” or “bicyclists” like they are some intangible entity.

Sure, I ride my bike. But I also drive my car. I also take public transportation from time to time. Is there a label for folks who drive? Calling them “motorists” makes it sound like we’re in the UK or somewhere British. When talking about public transportation, the people are just people who take the subway, metro or bus. They aren’t “metro-ists,” “subwayarians,” “bussers,” or any other weird version of these names.

Trying to change or reframe the conversation around the needs of bicycle infrastructure rather than the needs of bicyclists will take time. I say take the focus off of bicyclists and put it on the need for infrastructure and education. Once there are safe places for people to ride and the community accepts the role of bicycles as a way to get around, the option of getting around on two wheels won’t seem so foreign or something “someone else” would do. Changing or expanding the community of people who choose to ride their bike from time to time would come to include your neighbor, your child’s teacher or a co-worker. 

As I have continued to ride back and forth to work, there has become a growing number of community members who lightly honking their horns as they pass me as a gesture of recognition. And I love waving back to the growing number of familiar cars. It puts a smile on my face. I’m not a bicyclist. I’m their co-worker, their neighbor.

I’m not a vacuumist. I’m not a bicyclist. I’m not a motorist. I ride my bike, drive my car and take the bus. I’m a person making a choice in the way I get around, run my errands and move within my community.

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