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Ladyblogs’ Bully-Free Zone Doesn’t Apply to Cyclists

10:51 AM EDT on May 17, 2012

Major media outlets can be harsh to bicyclists -- often inexplicably or irrationally harsh. Even progressive sites like Salon are not immune, as we've written about before.

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Today Adonia Lugo at Urban Adonia points to another unexpected source of venom: the feminist blogosphere, a.k.a. ladyblogs. These bastions of tolerance and acceptance have a strange blind spot for cyclists, Lugo writes:

When the topic of bikes comes up, there's always a mini-war in the comments between people who despise "bike hipsters" (read: entitled, privileged jerks who think they own the road) and people who actually ride bikes. Commenters trot out their most extreme stories of negative interactions they've had with people on bikes, sometimes concluding with things like "F#%* BIKING HIPSTERS I HOPE A BUS HITS YOU."

These are the same websites that promote things like fat acceptance and anti-bullying campaigns. Why are bicyclists portrayed as inhuman creatures unworthy of sympathy, dismissing an incredibly diverse world of practice (bicycling) because of the stupid behavior of a few jerks? And, this is the thing that really confuses me, why do people find jerk bicyclists so harmful to society when they constantly interact with motorists who run red lights and stop signs, use infrastructure like traffic circles in dangerous ways, talk and text in the car, drive without looking from side to side when entering intersections, and engage in other dangerous behaviors that kill people every day?

I asked a few of my friends, one a bicyclist and one less inclined to the bicycling arts, what they thought about this phenomenon. Both responded that it's because you can see a bicyclist's face, whereas it's easier to think of a motorist as a car. The interactions with bicyclists stick out in people's minds, and maybe they feel more personally insulted by the face-to-face flouting of laws. I think it's also because we've trained ourselves to think of driving as passing through an obstacle course rather than moving through a social space. Cars that do dumb stuff are a nuisance, but they do not interrupt the illusion until there's an actual crash. Bodies that do dumb stuff are a threat to the idea that driving is a no harm, no foul activity. You might actually hurt someone!

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region shares a story about New Jersey high school students who are fighting for 0.2 miles of sidewalk at a dangerous turn by their school. Greater Greater Washington sees parallels between the misperceptions of New York City's bike-share plans and the days preceding the launch of Capital Bikeshare. And the Transport Politic says Dallas's Trinity highway plan, which will parallel a new light-rail line, represents "transportation planning at its worst."

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