My Cycling Manifesto

August 26, 2012


The fact that I am a cyclist does not exempt me from the laws of physics.

Despite being on a bike, I still take up space. I still have momentum, and – especially when I am traveling as fast as you – I cannot stop instantaneously.

If you pull in front of me and slam on your brakes, I am going to end up bleeding in your back seat. If you merge into the lane of traffic where I’m riding, you are going to either run me off the road or squash me between your vehicle and the parked car, median, wall, or whatever given obstacle might be making its home on the side of the street. If you hang a left without checking your side mirror, you are erecting a 2000-pound metal wall in front of someone who is not a crash dummy.

I am, in fact, 170 pounds of aluminum and steel and rubber and fabric and blood and flesh and brain tissue and teeth and eyelashes, and I am a living, breathing person with sisters and friends and parents and a career and student loans and (for just a few days more) no health insurance. That backpack I’m carrying contains my computer, which I worked hard and saved scrupulously for and is my livelihood. The bike I’m on is how I get to work, how I run my errands, how I exercise, and a large part of how I carve out a little niche of enjoyment in my life. I love it. I do not love when people fail to recognize that I am still a fellow human being while on it.


If you want me to act like a car, treat me like a car. Don’t look straight at me and continue walking against the light and directly into my path. (Again – physics apply to both of us the same.) If you get in my way and I am unable to stop or turn (emphasis here on unableI don’t want to hit you exactly as much as you don’t want to be hit by me), it’s going to hurt. Both of us. A lot. Please, please spare us the pain. And for Pete’s sake, if you’re opening your door into traffic or jaywalking between cars, take a glance behind you or around the corner before blindly putting both of our lives in jeopardy.


Those of you riding the wrong way on busy one-way streets, cutting across crowded sidewalks, and screaming through red lights and stop signs with absolutely no regard for pedestrians or cross traffic are making the rest of us look like dicks, and we don’t appreciate it. Quit freaking people out (and putting all of us in danger), and maybe we won’t have such a terrible reputation.


Please take a look at that last section and start enforcing the laws appropriately. The person who pulls ahead of the crosswalk or coasts through an obviously-clear red light is a negligible part of the problem, yet is disproportionately disciplined over those who aren’t using their judgment and are perpetually a breath away from killing themselves or maiming the next pedestrian to cross their path. Sure, it’s easier to catch the slow-moving offender, but with little risk of consequence for the wrong-direction rider, there’s not much incentive for them to change their ways, and ultimately no good will is engendered on your part, our part, pedestrians’ part, or drivers’ part. There must be a system of accountability, and you are best-suited to enforce it – there simply isn’t an ad campaign in the world as effective as forcing offenders to pony up their cash.

And just to throw it out there, the myriad drivers parking in the bike lane – any bike lane, at any given time – are like free money. Is there any reason to not take it?


I’m not a douchebag rider. I’m not elitist about my bike or the fact that you’re in a gas-guzzler or running in Vibrams or whatever other trait one might notice (you, like me, are more complex than my two-second assessment indicates). I am simply trying to get through my day without dying. I’ll do my part… it would be pretty swell if you could do yours, too.