Comment 39874

By schmadrian (registered) | Posted April 16, 2010 at 10:41:26

"I have trouble understanding the degree of antipathy some people feel toward cyclists..."

I have no trouble at all understanding it. I don't agree with it, but I understand it entirely...because I see the car as more than just another means of people getting around. Some don't want to admit the place the car holds in our value system in North America, but from my perspective, it's central, so much of our way of life is predicated on it; one only has to take away from history automobile production and consumption and consider the sea change result in 'How Things Might Have Been' to appreciate this. It's not just a matter of car manufacturing being the engine that drove the North American economy for almost a hundred years...it's the place the car has within the psyche of the average person/consumer. Deny this at your peril. (Declaiming as to 'how things should be', or 'how people should live their lives' is, at best, hilarious, and at worst, saddening.)

I was discussing the notion of 'car driver antipathy' with my father just yesterday. The notion that when a person gets behind the wheel, it's like a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde process that unfolds. Putting aside the whole 'Car as an expression of self, as validation' theory (one I embrace as a facet of what I referred to in my initial paragraph), what seems to happen is a sense of urgency to get where they're going, and indeed, primacy for that mission; there's nothing more important in the entire world to them than getting to where they want to go. (This is half the explanation as to why people speed, even in residential settings.) They view stoplights and stop signs as consternating impediments to their mission. Other drivers as potential adversaries. And beyond the shadow of a doubt, pedestrians and cyclists as...

...well, as factors they'd much prefer just went away. Disappeared.

Regarding pedestrians, I see this mindset at crosswalks, both on the streets and at shopping centers. (I don't know what's worse; the driver who doesn't seem to understand the real purpose of having a 'Yield' sign at a crossing...or shoppers-in-cars who would make vanish all foot-traffic if they could...especially as it pertains to slowing down their mission's progress. Shameful behaviour in both regards.

As far as cyclists? It's simple; most drivers resent the presence of people-on-bikes. You have to remember that the only valid state of existence the average driver believes in (yes, I'm generalizing, but ya know what? decades on my feet 'out there' combined with being a driver for more than thirty years as well as time spent as a commuter-on-wheels has provided me with empirical evidence to more than back up my viewpoint) is that of driving a car. Everything else is- Well, it's pathetic. And in terms of the inconvenience felt at having to 'accommodate' cyclists, how it means more attention must be paid to something other than simply getting to where they're wanting to go as rapidly and as expediently as possible...well, there's your antipathy, right there.

None of this should be of any surprise to anyone with an open mind and not unreasonably attached to 'how things ought to be'. This antipathy is a form of arrogance. Similar to the arrogance that smokers used to display, but much, much more deeply rooted in the bedrock of North American life. To take issue with anything having to do with even the hint of somehow lessening the paramount status of The Car And Its Drivers will, until we manage to effect a conscious and unconscious shift in perception (and by extension, our societal value system) will continually be met with disrespect, derision and resistance to the tune of howevermanydriversthereareoutthere.

In closing, I have to point out that this ever-expanding subject is directly connected to something I've touched on elsewhere this week on RTH, the notion of 'customer service'. Which, at the core, comes down to respect, to graciousness, to honouring how we move through our world.

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