Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Callout to Exclusive Cyclists

I read the book "Bicycle Tribes" last year. In summary, it was a book highlighting and essentially poking fun at different types of cyclist groups in the States. No group was left unwritten about, well almost no group. There is us parent bikers left out. But i'm not surprised. In a world where we try to teach green living and healthy lifestyle  to our children Family bicycling which fits both is still a fringe activity. I feel like the past couple of days this topic has come to head for me. I saw first hand the all to common exclusive nature of people who bike in the states plus reading the comments about Emily Finch and her missing bakfiets.

When you become a new parent every one has an opinion on how you choose to raise your child. Comments about how your kid must be cold because they aren't wearing enough sweaters or socks are heard in supermarkets across America. In a bike we hear a lot worst.

At an intersection when a window goes down I am often cringing. What is this person about to say to me? Last Saturday a man yelled at me and my husband for not being on the sidewalk (illegal) and asked "what are we doing" well trying to make a left as we signaled but you decided to go around us and make right in front of us. The conversation didn't go that calmly. Or while biking back that Saturday night a black SUV of guys yelling across Spring Garden at me "baby mobile". I ignored them and laughed, but really what is with the harassment? But this post isn't about car drivers who think I am some idiot biking my kids around. This post is about other people who like to bike too thinking that.

Us parent bicyclists are probably the most inclusive group, we just want to increase our ranks, happily becoming spokesmodels for one less minivan and one more cargo bike or trailer to any person on the street who asks. Hoping for one more family to travel by bike, for the taboo we are putting are kids in mortal danger or that we are spending too much money on a "toy" or that we are all dirty hippies might slowly disappear. 

However other cyclists? This summer one "roadie" got up next to me to yell to his friend that I had a "baby launcher". What? Thanks for implying I'm putting my child in danger. I'm not recently postpartum are anything with lost of emotions. That cyclist then went on and blocked the only curb cut to the path while he took a break. Hi not everyone one can just hop up the curb. A parent posted recently on Kidical Mass Philly's Facebook how a local bike shop berated her for wanting to use a front seat on her bike.

This past Saturday was a "Take Your Time Group Bike Ride." Usually these rides are during the week and women only (and usually much smaller then this one). Hard for me too do with the kids and all. So the group all are welcomed weekend ride was a nice chance to ride with another slow group besides Kidical Mass. But honestly the riders on the ride left a sour taste in my and my fellow mom's mouths on the ride. Ironically, "Kidical Mass DC" had tweeted earlier on Saturday a similar feeling to what we felt on the ride. She was at a conference and had to "issue" the memo that not everyone rides the same way you do. Not everyone has the same burdens or terrain. 

A man on our ride so kindly made a comment about my pedal assist as parents in the Netherlands don't need them yadda yadda yadda. Well I'm climbing hills in Manayunk sir and on Saturday for instance I am biking 22 miles with two kids in tow. So maybe you could say wow that is great what you are doing without implying I am some how less of a bike rider. (Also don't talk down to me because I don't know the exact kind of drive train, I'm just here to ride a bike). 

Riders who said is that safe? Are you implying I'm not safe with my kids. Thanks.

While Kidical Mass tries to get our weakest and slowest riders to ride up front helping to set the pace. I found riders leaving an older lady who was on the ride way behind. Maybe it is a motherly thing but it  made me worried as this is the rider that a group ride helps protect. My KM co-orgnaizer and fellow mom on the ride's husband stopped at one point to help an older man with a bad tire. Again this is who a group ride should protect.

And although I am happy to protect my own weakest passengers. It would be nice if fellow rides on the ride to understand it takes a moment to accelerate on my bike or my turn is going to be way wider or slower. Instead the looks of UGH were shown. 

So the question? How do we make bike riders more understanding that other people ride differently. That pedal assist isn't a cheat. That going slow is just as great as going fast. That we should encourage and protect the weakest not leave them alone. Group rides are after all social.

Not sure I have the answer to the problem?