A British online magazine called City Cycling appears to be aimed at people commuting to work in large cities. It is encouraging that there are enough people doing this to show interest and support for such a website.
However, a recent article suggests that cyclists should abandon lycra and helmets. The author of this piece seems to think that cyclists dressed in such a style are seen as “not human” or are from another “tribe,” and consequently unworthy of attention.”
The idea is, dressed in street clothes, i.e. jeans and tee shirt or a suit and tie, other road users will see us as human beings just like them. As a result they will be a little more tolerant towards us. Somehow, I don’t think so.
If I ride down the middle of a traffic lane, take the lane so to speak, because I am attempting to turn left; the person behind me, delayed for a few seconds is not going to be any less pissed off if I look like I just stepped off the cover of GQ.
As for the idea that the driver doesn’t see me as human? He knows I’m human, otherwise he would run me down like a squirrel. I would like to think it is human decency that prevents him from doing so, but more than likely it is not wanting to deal with the consequences, that is the biggest deterrent.
In a few cases, I think it is the fact that they could run me down, but are not allowed to in a civilized society that makes them so mad. They will sit behind a farm tractor doing ten miles per hour for as long as it takes, and deal with it, but God forbid they should have to slow to fifteen or twenty miles per hour for a few seconds behind a cyclist.
When I go riding I put on my team jersey, not because I want to be seen as belonging to some other tribe; I just want to be seen, period. I choose a team jersey for its bright colors, not because I support that particular team.
The other reason I choose a genuine team jersey is the quality of the product. It is designed to give the wearer maximum comfort under extreme racing conditions. So I know during my modest exertions I can concentrate on riding my bike without being focused on how uncomfortable my clothes make me feel.
Designed to keep the wind off if it is a little chilly, or to keep me dry and comfortable if I am sweating like the proverbial pig. I can throw it in a cold wash when I’m through riding, and it is practically dry after the spin cycle.
Another quote from the article, “Normal people don't wear polystyrene hats.” Bicycle helmets don’t give total protection, and no one should be lulled into a false sense of security by wearing one.
I was wearing a helmet when I hit an SUV last December and still came away with a hairline skull fracture. But I was glad I had a little Styrofoam between my head and the very solid side of that vehicle, and I am sure without it I could have been injured more.
You don’t have to wear lycra and a helmet to enjoy cycling, and I am not advocating that everyone should dress thus. It is a sport that can give pleasure at any level. I just happen to be an ex-racing cyclist and still enjoy a road bike.
I cannot ride unless I am going balls out, as fast as I can. It is what I have done all my life; I try to maintain a level of fitness so I can continue to do so. I cannot ride in this fashion in a suit, or in blue jeans feeling like my nuts are in a tourniquet.
In spite of my earlier comments, when I’m on the road I try not to adopt an “us and them” attitude; it serves no useful purpose. Traffic is not going to get any lighter, so I must deal with it. However, I am going to exercise my right to ride on the public highway.
I try to be considerate and courteous at all times; if someone slows down and is cautious when passing, I will often give them a little thank you wave. My way of saying thank you for not passing at fifty miles an hour, missing me by inches.
Most road users don’t mind sharing the road with a cyclist if they are predictable and give clear signals of their intentions. They dislike cyclists who weave in an out of traffic for example.
If I wear lycra and a helmet at least I look like I know what I am doing. If I wear street clothes; I could be someone who just decided to “go green” the previous week, or someone who has just got their third DUI ticket.