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Cycling Ambassadors(15 posts)

Cycling Ambassadorswonderdog
Jun 18, 2002 6:10 AM
i i wrote this article for my local club's website a few months back. i thought i'd post it here to generate a discussion on the cyclist-motorist relationship. since i wrote the article, i've wondered if this view is naive. what do you think?

It's the little things that make me enjoy commuting to work by bike. I enjoy walking out the front door on a brisk fall morning and being enveloped by the chill in the air. I relish the polite stares and quizzical looks I get at the office. "How far did you ride to work?" and "That bike is so light;What's it made out of?!" are the usual questions I get. I dig the buzz of my freewheel rather than the buzz of a morning coffee, and I enjoy the intoxicating freedom from my car. Mostly, though, I enjoy being a cycling ambassador.

When I swing my leg over my bike, I become an emissary for cycling enthusiasts everywhere. As I pedal my bike to work, wait at traffic lights, stop at stop signs, and signal my intentions, I build a rapport with motorists. I like to think that I am educating the general public about commuting. Society has become programmed to act a certain way, and Joe Average drives his car to work every morning out of habit. However, it has been my experience that the mold can be cracked and broken. Old habits die hard, but they do die.

I typically ride my bike along a certain route to my place of work. I am, after all, a creature of habit. I head south on Germantown Parkway, west on Wolf River Boulevard, and continue along Shady Grove until I'm at work. I rarely deviate from these roads, and I invariably catch certain lights on red. I have noticed that the same people pass me day after day; they, too, are religious in their route choice. These motorists see my behavior at 7:30am and 4:30pm several times per week. Perhaps over the course of the 100 or so times that they have passed me, a switch in their consciousness has been thrown. Perhaps they are now considering alternative modes of transportation. Perhaps they are thinking of riding their bike this evening after seeing me. Perhaps they have decided to purchase a bicycle for their son or daughter because I reminded them of a gift they received when they were younger….and perhaps not. Perhaps that idea will dawn on them on another morning.

This role that we assume each morning as we clip into our pedals is a weighty one fraught with conflict. I imagine that there have been very few ambassadors who were well received everywhere they went. Hostile reception is part of the gig. I have had the following thrown at me since moving here one year ago: a handful of loose change, a fork, an empty bottle, and a full can of Budweiser...icy cold. I have been sworn at, chewed out, and a few weeks ago, a teenager in a car leaned out of the passenger window to shove me as he passed. Fortunately, I have not been injured through any of these incidents. However, an ambassador strives to exercise diplomacy. I try, to the best of my ability, to realize that emotions are short lived. I merely smile and wave to these people as I inwardly shout a plethora of 4 letter words at the offender. After all, I'm trying to win the war, and there are other motorists watching me.

Based upon MY actions, these drivers will stereotype all other cyclists on the road. By keeping our cool, we're making this city a safer place for all members of the community to ride a bike.

Of course, your mileage may vary. These are my experiences, but I'm certain that all cyclists have similar tales. The next time you head out the door for your morning commute or afternoon ride, remember that the fossil fueled public scrutinizes you and your actions. You are, in all your fancy gear with your sparkling components, spreading the gospel of cycling to the masses. Charles Barkley, the famous professional basketball player known for his temper, was once quoted saying "I am not a ro

part 2wonderdog
Jun 18, 2002 6:12 AM
Of course, your mileage may vary. These are my experiences, but I'm certain that all cyclists have similar tales. The next time you head out the door for your morning commute or afternoon ride, remember that the fossil fueled public scrutinizes you and your actions. You are, in all your fancy gear with your sparkling components, spreading the gospel of cycling to the masses. Charles Barkley, the famous professional basketball player known for his temper, was once quoted saying "I am not a role model." The statement was controversial because he was a player in the public spotlight. Likewise, you are not given a choice about your emissary role; rather, it is thrust upon you. This duty does not have to be at the forefront of your mind as you pedal, but being aware of your actions and their message is extremely important for the whole two-wheeled community. As you enjoy your ride, for whatever reasons, remember that you are an ambassador for cyclists. The attitudes and habits of motorists can be influenced in many directions. Send a positive message for cyclists and the cycling industry.

Together, we'll reap what you sow.

My Old Stomping Groundjromack
Jun 18, 2002 9:14 AM
I grew up in Rockville, but left over 20 years ago.

I always found that area to be more "bike friendly" than many big cities.
re: Cycling Ambassadorsbiknben
Jun 18, 2002 8:38 AM
When I'm out riding and commuting I do feel as if I'm representing cyclists and cycling. I can't say I'm "spreading the gospel of cycling to the masses" but I consciously display good road manners and obey the laws. I act responsibly and respectfully. I know people are watching me. Because of that I try to set a good example.

I enjoy seeing little kids on bikes. The really new riders who get awe struck when they see a cyclist. I'll sometimes slow down and ride along side a kid and tell them that I remember when I rode a bike just like theirs, or how I really like their helmet. They instantly smile, sit up straighter, and accelerate. I think I get as much out of that as they do.

I wouldn't call myself an ambassador, but I do make a conscious effort to promote cycling.
Nice work you guys.AllisonHayes
Jun 18, 2002 9:32 AM
Nice stories too!

When I become President, I will issue an order for separate bike ROADS across the country. I will call it the cyclebahn with three lanes on each side. The inside lane for fast riders and the rider being overtaken needs to move to the right. The far right lane is for slower riders.

No pedestrians, no dogs, no runners, no rollerbladers, no cars: only bicycles. Then I will then nominate you guys for Ambassador positions to promote cycling good will.

Down with OIL I say; no more dependence on the middle east. No more pollution. Are 'ya with me boys? :)
Cyclebahn!!!gs6769
Jun 18, 2002 9:41 AM
What an idea!! Is three lanes enough?

Gas stations would have to convert from selling petroleum products to pumping Gu, Power Bars and Extran! Fill 'er up!
Yeah, we would have to create an entirely new infrastructure.AllisonHayes
Jun 18, 2002 9:54 AM
I can see it now...McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC--all would be out of business; Texaco, Phillips, BP-Amoco--gone, all of them. All replaced by knowledgable LBS' and Starbucks. Performance, Colorado Cyclist, Nashbar become the darling stocks to own. Eugene returns as our true hero.

In their place, communities connected by high-speed rail and of course, the Cyclebahn. America, healthy once again; no more cellulitespeeds. Shimano & Colnago become household words. Colnago, DeRosa, Cinelli, Pinarello are as coveted as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Mazarotti used to be.

How sweet it would be...
"Welcome to the Home Shopping Network........"gs6769
Jun 18, 2002 11:50 AM
"......Tonight on the Campagnolo hour we have a very special guest, 1965 Tour de France winner Felice Gimondi. Mr. Gimondi will be presenting some spectacular items from our good friends at Campy, including the brand new Record 11 speed gruppo. So sit back, enjoy our chat with one of the greatest cyclists of his generation, and don't hesitate to dial in for any or all of the lovely products we'll be presenting .........."

The mind reels.
re: Cycling Ambassadors & a question or twogs6769
Jun 18, 2002 9:33 AM
Well put.

I can't claim I've never blown a stop sign or done a dumb thing on a bike. What I can say though is that my favorite maxim regarding city riding and interacting with automobile traffic is; " If I want to be respected, I have to respect the rules.". I think of it often and ride accordingly.

Does anyone else get funny looks from other cyclists or even drivers when waiting at a red light that you could easily blow through due to lack of cross traffic?

How about drivers clearly 'expecting' you to jump your turn at a stop sign?

How appropriate is it, and under what circumstances is it a good idea to give a word of unbidden advice to cyclists who display irresponsible behavior? i.e; The one who keeps blowing by you at red light after red light, or does an iffy track stand waiting to jump when he thinks the coast is clear, red or not? I've told people to 'knock it off' when they've jeopordized my safety, flying by on the right with no warning while I wait at a red is an example, but usually keep my mouth shut. Opinions?
You know that drive circle on River Road by Minnehaha Park.bnlkid
Jun 18, 2002 10:14 AM
The one that looks like it was designed straight from Europe? I have had more cars stop when they have the right of way because they think I am going to ignore the yield sign. It is really frustrating because they look at me like I'm causing the problem. I'm stopped dead waiting for them to go by. Why the dirty looks? Cars also go around that circle then turn into the parking lot without signaling. So, yes, I have had dirty looks from drivers when I obey the traffic laws. I have also witnessed other cyclists trying to sqeeze by on the right and run through a red light. I even had someone display obvious disgust with me as I waited my turn at a light and didn't make room for him to squeeze by on the right(I was resting my foot on the curb so I could remain seated).

The only way cyclists that ignore the laws are going to learn is to get ticketed or, heaven fordid, in an accident. Cyclists are just like any other person. Trying to correct inappropriate behavior is almost worthless. We cannot educate people in this society anymore because many people think they are right and the world was made for them. Someone telling them they are wrong might make the behavior worse. Leading by example is the best thing we can do to help change behavior. Just my stupid opinion.
You know that drive circle on River Road by Minnehaha Park.gs6769
Jun 18, 2002 12:11 PM
Ah yes, I know the spot. I've had the same thing happen there. The only thing I've found that helps is to unclip and put a foot down. Of course I'd rather not have to, but at least it shows my intention a little more clearly. I guess driver's uncertainty is really the fault of sloppy cyclists behavior. They've been 'jumped' and 'cut off' before and expect it again. Still, one shoudn't be crusted out for obeying traffic laws, no matter what others have done. Gotta hate the "right side jonsin' rider". At the Franklin & River Road intersection the other day I was waiting in the left turn lane on 27th Ave S.E. behind one car. Just before the light turned green, some goof pulled between my front wheel and the car and settled next to the car with a foot on the traffic island. As the light turned, he just pulled straight out in front of the car and me to make his turn. It turned out he was slow as mollasses as well so I had no choice but to pass him in order to get out of the intersection before the light went red.

I think you may well be right about 'educating' people. Still, in some cases I've got to call people on dumb behavior when it directly effects me like the above. No need to swear or yell, just make a point firmly....... If that doesn't help, smack 'em with your frame pump!!!! (just kidding, no flames please)
Not so stupid.Leisure
Jun 18, 2002 7:12 PM
It's true there are a lot of cyclists that act selfishly and are too used to getting away with running lights and all. And it's true it's not because they're cyclists; it's just human nature to assume more is entitled to you than actually is. One thing that still needs to get worked on IMO is removing the racing mentality from riding on public roads. It's just like the kids with souped-up Hondas that need to go to racing speedways instead of taking it out on the streets. Racing on public roads is stupid, even at the comparatively slow speeds cyclists go, because that more than anything encourages cyclists to fall into these unsafe and unsightly habits. I finally went on a group ride earlier this week that featured a lot of really serious road racers. They were actually really cool guys, but when two of them launched out ahead of the pack none of them could resist the urge and they all took off. Of course none of these guys are going to stop at signs for fear that it will contribute to them getting dropped. The overemphasis of racing priorities on public roads I think also contributes to racers being seen as the "top" ambassadors that other riders are supposed to follow. How many of the riders on the group ride were noticing that I lagging in the back was coming to a nearly complete stop at every single sign? How many of them would really care, since I was one of the weaker riders there anyway and shouldn't presume to have any uh, ambassadorship in the matter? They were nice guys (at least among those I talked to), but what happened in that group racer dynamic left me a bit, hmm, putoff? I let them go, it was more work than I was prepared to do anyway, and ended up taking a wrong turn and rode most of the ride alone. It was actually more fun. Sometimes you just be an ambassador for yourself and hope eventually it sinks in.
Not so stupid.gs6769
Jun 19, 2002 6:16 AM
I think you've made some good points. I seldom think along 'group' lines when considering wise city cycling procedures as I ride alone almost all the time. I do think it's quite easy for things to get out of hand when a bunch head out together. For one thing, overall speed is much easier to increase with turns on the front, echelons and all other well documented group riding techniques. Add to that some human competitive nature (I know I've got some of this myself) and before long you've got a train rolling along at 30+ mph. One which could hardly stop at ANY stop sign, much less all of them without a major pile up at some point.
you should send this stuff to...JS Haiku Shop
Jun 18, 2002 9:55 AM
the local major newspaper, free weekly publication, and fitness publication. you know the ones. it might help 'round town. good writing, btw.
re: Cycling AmbassadorsLeisure
Jun 18, 2002 7:19 PM
I tend to think a bit of naivete is necessary in these type of articles. It a fundamental part of idealism. I like it as a whole. The only thing I'm thinking about is maybe it would be better snipped and parseled down a bit, and then some organizational details. Just in making a good article better, if you catch my drift.