This weekend, I’ve been involved in a long twitter conversation about the prioritization of driving in our city…and specifically, in the Glebe (as you can imagine, I’m not a fan). A pro-car interlocutor mentioned that he, too, is a cyclist.
It’s a common trope for people arguing against safe bicycle infrastructure to lobbed out “I’m a cyclist, too,” and there’s a lot wrapped up in such a statement in that specific context. With this post, I’m not directing anything at this most recent use of the trope; I want to address it, in general.
When those arguing for anti-bike, pro-car infrastructure make this claim (whether it’s true or not), it’s generally disingenuous, an attempt to claim unearned authority, to deceitfully claim the high road…basically, it’s concern-trolling.
Sometimes, it’s defensive. Maybe they’ve realized how heartless and cruel their perspective is, and they’re trying to claim back some of their humanity…without actually offering any to people who don’t drive.
Occasionally, it may even be an attempt to provide greater context to one’s perspective, offering a full understanding of where they’re coming from. This is rare, if not a complete fiction I just dreamed up.
But motives aside, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter that you already ride your bike. It doesn’t really matter that I already ride my bike. I mean, yes, we should both absolutely have safe infrastructure, but our primary concern should be to build infrastructure for people who do not currently ride their bike, but would.
This is basically the idea behind 8-80 street design. We need city infrastructure that is safe and welcoming for all people, not just you and me. It needs to be safe for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old. It needs to be safe for people with mobility issues. It needs to be safe for parents pushing strollers. It needs to be safe for people on foot, on bikes, on transit and in their cars.
Here’s the crux, when we build streets that are safe for all people, they’ll be safe for you and me, too. Hell, we’ll get safer streets than we actually ask for. This is a win for us.
Whenever we build bike lanes (and “we” can mean just about any community in the world), we see more and more people riding bikes. But this isn’t some magical transformation of the human spirit; we’re merely unlocking desires that are already there.
New bike lanes don’t make people ride bikes; our existing, dangerous infrastructure prevents people from riding bikes. It stops them from doing what they actually want to do.
People arguing for pro-car infrastructure are arguing from a point of selfishness. They want to drive fast, drive everywhere and park everywhere, no matter what dangers and costs they impose on anyone else.
Pivoting from that to saying “I bike, too,” is just another layer of selfishness. You have decided that your preferences, your experience and your desires should override the experiences, wants and needs of everyone else.
I don’t care that you’re a cyclist, too. I care that there are people who want to bike, but can’t.