Recently I read an article by Bill Schneider in our local newspaper about bicycle rage. I’ve heard of this dangerous phenomenon between motorists and cyclists, but I have been lucky enough to avoid any confrontations so far (my desk is made of wood… and I’m knocking on it). There was something else in the article that bothered me, though. Mr. Schneider, the travel and outdoor editor for NewWest.net, relayed a quote from a “blue-collar” motorist who described what they thought when they saw a cyclist on the road; “When I see cyclists, I see guys who don’t have to work for a living; why else would they be out getting exercise in the evening when hard-working Americans are resting up for another day of hard work?” ¹ Seriously? I must be either woefully naïve or completely out of touch with my fellow blue-collar Americans. Or both. This statement struck me wrong on so many levels; I just have to sort it all out here.
First of all, the idea that cycling is just a white-collar sport shouldn’t surprise me, but it did. Perhaps it’s because everyone I know and ride with are just regular, middle-class people. Yes, there comes a certain point in one’s economic standing, I suppose you could say, where extracurricular sports become more feasible. Some folks like single parents, raising families and working minimum-wage jobs, don’t have a lot of extra time or cash to devote to things like skiing, golfing, tennis, or other sports. But there are also plenty of blue-collar Americans who do enjoy a variety of sports, and they shouldn’t be stereotyped because of their interests.
There are cultural differences to consider, too. Is cycling still seen as an elitist European sport imported into this country? It’s hard to escape that image when you see expensive road bikes and clothing sold at a premium in specialty stores. They don’t sell Colnagos at Wal-Mart, you know. And I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t, it just illustrates the gap in appeal and accessibility to the masses. And take a look at cycling’s premier events: the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, among others. These European spectator events leave most of us Americans disconnected unless we can pick it up on TV. Cycling will never enjoy the broad spectator appeal here in the states that basketball, football, or baseball does.
Finally, I have to address the statement, “Why else would guys [and gals] be out exercising in the evening?” What exactly constitutes “resting up for another day of hard work?” Of course it means different things to different people. It might mean watching TV. Scrapbooking. Cooking a nice meal. Going to a restaurant or bar. Hanging out with the kids. Or, yes, exercising. There was a time (long ago) when my favorite after-work activity was watching TV accompanied by a beer or two, a pack of Marlboros, and a bag of Lay’s potato chips for dinner. Yeah, those were the days! But just because I don’t live like that anymore doesn’t make it wrong for someone else who chooses that lifestyle. Conversely, I don’t like the idea of people judging me on how I spend my free time.
The whole judgment issue brings me full circle back to that quote in the Schneider article. Without getting into the well-covered subject of cycling/road rage, it’s safe to say that the core of that person’s intolerance and bias was disturbing to me. We’ve got enough small-mindedness in the world to go around already. I’m going to be thinking more objectively about the motorists I meet when I’m riding, or the cyclists I pass when I’m driving. Let’s just all give each other a break, no matter what color our collars are.
¹Schneider, W. (October 27, 2009). Bicycle rage? Why? Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne, WY.