Don’t blame the cyclists.

There is a weak joke on the Internet where someone is arguing for world peace. They don’t want any division between class, ethnicity, religion or other factions. They want unity – so that everyone can hate cyclists together. This is really pathetic, because there is no good reason to hate people on bicycles, but many seem to do, unless you are on a bicycle. If you are on a bicycle, you are always worried about being hit by a vehicle, the victim of ignorance, forgetfulness or hate crime.

Discrimination based on stereotypes and assumptions is unacceptable, whether it is racism, sexism or speciesism. Hatred of cyclists is another -ism, and there is no justification for it. It is intimidation. It encourages drivers to hurt or intimidate people on bicycles. Whether it’s a shock on the talk back or the Daily Blog, hating cyclists is dangerous and can endanger people’s lives.

When you ride a bike, it’s like having a target painted on your back. Every day when I get on my bike, for fun, fitness, and transportation, I become the target of people who suddenly hate me irrationally – because they might have seen someone on a bike who ran a red light once, or something. But I don’t suddenly become a bad person on my bike – on the contrary, I’m very happy! – I’m just someone who tries to do my part for the planet, who wants to come home alive.

We’re buzzing with fast cars, get off the road through the buses, overwritten by trucks. They throw things at us, they swear at us. We are doomed for wearing lycra whether we do it or not. In fact, if you cycle frequently, it’s best to wear the right gear. We are called roadkill. People are being abused to ask for more cycle paths, for the development of cycle paths, not to use cycle paths. We are doomed because there are too many cyclists, blocking traffic, but also because no one is riding a bicycle anyway. The truth is that there are hardly any bike lanes, and the ones we have are either full or full of broken surfaces or broken glass.

We are told that we should pay registration fees and then we would be more legitimate road users, more deserving of safety, and we would be safer. But recording has nothing to do with security. No country in the world registers bicycles. This is an impractical proposition – would it apply to children, what about pedestrians? And anyway, we are not in a user-pays transport system. Most cyclists also pay tariffs and taxes which contribute to the few cycle paths that are developed. Public health experts believe cyclists should be subsidized for the broader climate change, health and environmental benefits that driving brings to society.

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It wasn’t just the cyclists who crossed the harbor last week, seeking to cross Auckland Harbor on the 62sd anniversary of the bridge. It was also the walkers, but it is the cyclists who receive the hatred. It is not our fault that automobile culture and road rage target cyclists. It’s not our fault New Zealanders think the roads are just for cars. It is not white privilege that motivates us to want safe places to walk and cycle, including across the harbor. Cycling should be accessible to all and have particular benefits for the poor. It’s free. It’s effective. It burns fat, not oil. It is not our fault the government has allocated a ridiculous amount of money for a bridge across the harbor that we doubt will even be built. It is not our fault that when we went to cross the bridge last week, the few police officers present conceded ground quite easily, – did not beat up anyone, allowing us to access two lanes already closed to the circulation. We also observed that the police response might have been different if it was a predominantly Maori group trying to cross. But it is not our fault. It is not rational to blame cyclists for a racist system.

It is not rational to hate cyclists even if it seems like a National sportwhether you are a driver or not. So give us a break. Motorists do not actually own the road. People on bicycles are not alien species that do not deserve the right to life. We are moms and dads, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts. We are loved and we love life. But every time you hate us, condemn us for riding, you risk keeping us alive.

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