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  1. #1
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Taking cycling activism one step too far. A small Rant.

    Last week a man riding a bicycle was struck from behind and killed by a motorist in my city. Tragic, but not surprising as the fellow was cycling late at night with no lights and wearing dark clothing as do the majority of our car free/light citizens. He was a young artist in our community as well as many other things no doubt.

    Of course the local headlines announced: “Cyclist killed by hit-and-run motorist”. Had this young man been an astronaut, the headlines would have likely read: “Astronaut killed by hit and run driver while riding his bicycle”. In my mind, calling someone a “cyclist” just because he/she was on a bicycle when they died seems a bit strange. I have not owned a car since 1989 and have also cycled from New Orleans to every corner of the USofA. I am NOT a cyclist (other than by Webster’s definition when I am actually atop a bicycle), and I do not appreciate being called a cyclist to be honest. I use a bicycle to get where I need to be. Why does this define ME? Is my wife a motorist by definition just because she gets from place to place in a motor vehicle? That would be silly.

    OK…now the rant.

    At this young man’s memorial service, many representatives from the local cycling community showed up in “support”. Support of what exactly?? Their OWN AGENDA of course. Friends and family of the young man rightly ran off the people who consider themselves to be “cyclists” (even when not currently riding their bicycles) as this event was the celebration of a young man’s LIFE lost too soon and NOTHING to do with cycling. In my mind, the cycling advocates were pirating the memorial for their own selfish intents. Would members of the American Automobile Association have shown up if he had been killed in a car crash as a “motorist”. Unlikely.

    Thoughts?
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  2. #2
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    My local advocacy group (ActiveTrans) has started using "people on bikes" or similar in at least some of its materials when talking about infrastructure provision, safer streets etc. I think the theory is that many more people can identify themselves or their friends or their kids as "people on bikes", whereas "cyclist" implies a more exclusive identity and carries baggage.

    I can understand cycling advocates feeling that more should be done to protect vulnerable road users from crashes, and also to hold the responsible parties to higher standards (in a way that motorists probably don't). But involvement of that sort in a memorial without respectful coordination with the family / friends to determine whether it is appreciated or wanted is shameful.

  3. #3
    Senior Member kickstart's Avatar
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    "Cyclist" can be a generic description that simple conveys information in an accurate manner as different modes of transportation can change the circumstances of such an incident. I don't see any reason to read into it.

    I do agree that strangers with an agenda showing up at a funeral to offer "support" is in rather sleazy. If I meet my demise on a bicycle, I hope such people will restrain themselves and not show up at my funeral, or put up a "ghost" bike.

  4. #4
    A Roadie Forever 79pmooney's Avatar
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    I have felt for quite a while that a newspaper's job was to report. What happened, who was involved but also contributing factors. Maybe someone reading such an article might even learn something. Here: was the driver driving responsibly? Was the rider? It may well be that there were no witnessed or that they did not/could not talk to the reporter, but certainly the fact of whether the cyclist was even visible is not a tough one to decipher usually. (I'm guessing even closed mouth police might volunteer that up for community awareness if approached in that light.)

    And yes, this may reflect a little less gently on the deceased. But maybe his death can prevent another or even several more. Wouldn't any family want that?

    Ben

  5. #5
    Senior Member kickstart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Grey View Post
    My local advocacy group (ActiveTrans) has started using "people on bikes" or similar in at least some of its materials when talking about infrastructure provision, safer streets etc. I think the theory is that many more people can identify themselves or their friends or their kids as "people on bikes", whereas "cyclist" implies a more exclusive identity and carries baggage.

    That seems rather silly, do they also say people in motor vehicles instead of motorists? People in shoes rather than pedestrians? People in water rather than swimmer? People in trains rather than passengers?

  6. #6
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Grey View Post
    My local advocacy group (ActiveTrans) has started using "people on bikes" or similar...
    Much better!

    Headline would then read: "Local artist killed by hit and run driver while riding his bicycle". Of course, it takes time to find out who the victim is and reporters don't have time. "I would rather be first than right" is a quote from a famous journalist.
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  7. #7
    A Roadie Forever 79pmooney's Avatar
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    This isn't a big ax for me, but I have no trouble calling the rider of a bicycle a "cyclist". My dad's 1953 Webster calls a cyclist "one who rides a cycle" as does the current internet Mirriam-Webster.

    Ben

  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    My big ax to grind is the use of the term ACCIDENT. Most collisions can be prevented... often simply by following the law, thus they really are not "accidents," but simply examples of bad driving habits.

  9. #9
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    That seems rather silly, do they also say ...People in water rather than swimmer?
    Well, technically speaking...if you drown you should not be called a "swimmer" IMO.
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  10. #10
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
    This isn't a big ax for me, but I have no trouble calling the rider of a bicycle a "cyclist". My dad's 1953 Webster calls a cyclist "one who rides a cycle" as does the current internet Mirriam-Webster.

    Ben
    Yep, that is the definition in any dictionary I know of. My point is that there are "cyclists" who view cycling as part of their persona on and off the bike. Maybe even have cycling art hanging in the house or inked on their skin. Then there is my grandma, who rode a bike one time in the past 50 years just to see if she could still do it. Had she been killed, by definition she was a "cyclist" at the moment of her death, but in truth, she is just my grandma riding a bicycle.

    I think there should be a distinction made. "Cyclist" dehumanizes the person.
    Last edited by JoeyBike; 07-14-15 at 03:02 PM.
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  11. #11
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    I'm with Joey on many points here. I HATE identity politics. Like you, I've ridden tens of thousands of miles, and even been in the bicycle business all my life, but I only consider myself a cyclist in the context of riding a bicycle, not as an identifier of who or what I am. (that list would be to long to fit on a tombstone, or short obit.).

    I also don't see "the cause" when someone dies in this kind of accident. I know that we don't blame victims here in the USA, but the object lesson or takeaway here should be to take reasonable steps to ensure one's own safety, not blame others to further an agenda.

    Lastly, I agree that there's too much emphasis on the manner of death or victimhood. It used to be that the cause of death was only "memorialized" when heroism was involved, as with soldiers fighting for the country or firemen risking lives to save others. These days it only takes stupidity or bad luck to make news and be feted by strangers. Family and friends mourn the loss of the life and what it meant, which is right and how it should be. Strangers get worked up about how one died with no care about who or what he was in life. Friend, father and leader" have given way to "car victim". That's truly sad.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    My big ax to grind is the use of the term ACCIDENT. Most collisions can be prevented... often simply by following the law, thus they really are not "accidents," but simply examples of bad driving habits.
    Yep - and I believe ActiveTrans intentionally uses "crash" instead. Too often you see "Car hits cyclist", neatly placing the person on the bike into an "other" group while removing agency from the motor vehicle altogether.

    There's an interesting article about using language that avoids categorization (and therefore, setting up an oppositional mindset in discourse) here: How smart language helped end Seattle?s paralyzing bikelash | PeopleForBikes

    Ultimately I care less about whether self-identified "cyclists" find such language silly vs whether it's effective.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Grey View Post
    whereas "cyclist" implies a more exclusive identity and carries baggage.

    I can understand cycling advocates feeling that more should be done to protect vulnerable road users from crashes, and also to hold the responsible parties to higher standards (in a way that motorists probably don't). But involvement of that sort in a memorial without respectful coordination with the family / friends to determine whether it is appreciated or wanted is shameful.
    First point, hit and run drivers should get the death penalty.

    That said, a (likely drunk) moron on a bicycle in the middle of the night with no lights is in no way a cyclist and they don't need protection unless you are trying to thwart Darwin.

    I can point to cyclists riding legally and safely in broad daylight on improved shoulders run down by careless drivers that do in fact deserve some protection, but I'm short on sympathy for the artist described above and I would not be attending his memorial service trying to make any kind of point.

  14. #14
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    It's a general point about why cycling advocates often get involved in memorializing people who are killed riding bikes (whether that be ceremonies, ghost bikes, rides of silence, attending court hearings etc), not a comment on the specifics of this case - about which I know nothing beyond Joey's post.

  15. #15
    A Roadie Forever 79pmooney's Avatar
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    If we want to be PC and not call the bicycle rider a "cyclist" shouldn't we be consistent and not label the automobile diver as a "motorist"? ("Cyclist killed by hit-and-run motorist”) I went back to the OP's first post to see how slanted/labeling the headline was. It was consistent. Wouldn't we be chuckling if the auto drivers got onto a forum and started ranting about the label "motorist" and how that skews public opinion?

    Ben

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    Quote Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
    If we want to be PC and not call the bicycle rider a "cyclist" shouldn't we be consistent and not label the automobile diver as a "motorist"? ("Cyclist killed by hit-and-run motorist”) I went back to the OP's first post to see how slanted/labeling the headline was. It was consistent. Wouldn't we be chuckling if the auto drivers got onto a forum and started ranting about the label "motorist" and how that skews public opinion?

    Ben
    Personally, I agree 100% - the PeopleForBikes blog I linked above says exactly the same thing.

    But I also think there is a practical difference. Ask 100 American adults to raise their hands if they're "motorists" and likely almost all of them will. Then repeat with "cyclists" - not only will the number be much smaller, but I'd be willing to bet a six-pack that some people who ride a bike from time to time don't raise their hands. In a car-heavy culture, "cyclist" marks people as "other" in a way that "motorist" doesn't.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
    .... ("Cyclist killed by hit-and-run motorist”) I went back to the OP's first post to see how slanted/labeling the headline was. It was consistent. ....
    I have no issue with the headline at all. It concisely gave the key points of concern about the incident itself. A cyclist (he was on a bicycle at the time) was struck by a motorist (he was driving the car at the time), though unless he reached our and slapped the cyclist, it was the car that struck the bicycle. But it tells the reader that it's about a traffic collision and what was involved. Then the story can delve deeper into the back story.

    I actually prefer this headline to "teacher struck by motorist" because this tells me little about the circumstances.

    But, the issues of headline writing aside, I think people deserve more than to be reduced to statistics and have personal tragedies usurped in the names of causes. let's separate the personal from the social and mourn losses of lives, not classes. Save class discussions for statistical data later on.
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  18. #18
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    I'm fine with being called a cyclist, and anyone can come to my funeral if I ever do get creamed by a car while riding.

    I just hope my story doesn't make it to A&S!
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  19. #19
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Pondering this some, it seems that the cyclist is being blamed for his own death. What is not said is WHY he was cycling late at night in the dark. Maybe didnt have enough money for a car, or lights on his bike for that matter. Maybe he was cycling home from his job. In this case too little is known to rush to judgement. For instance was the driver speeding, was the driver drunk, was the driver messing with his damned smart phone, had the driver been using drugs?

    IMO there is too much blame the victim any more when people dont know all the facts. And yes, too many people want to use a death to promote their own little agendas.

  20. #20
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andr0id View Post
    First point, hit and run drivers should get the death penalty.
    Someone driving a car full of drugs, or with outstanding warrants, child support dodgers, 3rd strike offender facing the "career criminal" tattoo, and any number of things that make stopping worst than a death sentence - eons spent in one of our famous "jails". The temptation to run is great and offenders are willing to take their chances with hit and run.
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    Someone driving a car full of drugs, or with outstanding warrants, child support dodgers, 3rd strike offender facing the "career criminal" tattoo, and any number of things that make stopping worst than a death sentence - eons spent in one of our famous "jails". The temptation to run is great and offenders are willing to take their chances with hit and run.
    Yes, people run because they have a good reason to, and in many cases you can't make the penalty harsh enough to deter that.

    But while it's impossible to have anything but disgust for those who hit and run, we have to remember that it's not the run that kills people, it's then hit.
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    Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts.

  23. #23
    Senior Member kickstart's Avatar
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    Person in motor vehicle and person on bicycle momentarily occupy same space with fatal results for one person

    Non dehumanizing, and non judgmental enough?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
    It's a start.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Lets hope justice prevails this time.

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