Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"Serious" Cyclist Impact

Recreational cyclists are out for one thing and one thing alone, recreation. This is true whether their motivation is fitness, training, racing, or just enjoy riding a bicycle. They are recreating and most of the time, it's even easy for a layman to tell this due to their attire and/or how they are equipped.

Having been both a recreational and utility cyclist out here for three years now, I can say unequivocally that I get ten times the respect when not on my $3500 road bike and geared up in all of the correct gear any "serious" recreational road cyclist would be in. When wearing street clothes and going somewhere with a purpose on a low-key single speed bicycle, I get a wider berth from traffic, fewer horn beeps and less garbage thrown at me from passing vehicles. There is a very noticeable difference whether I'm going somewhere with a purpose, or simply recreating.

It wasn't hard to do the math and come up with an answer for all of this. If someone is recreating in the street while many motorists may think that bicyles do not belong in the street, it's most likely considered at least an inconvenience to them. To some of those drivers, it would seem that a person with a purpose of transporting themselves to work, to attain goods, or access services may not be an inconvenience. This seems especially true in neighborhoods were there are higher percentages of low income residents who must depend on either public transportation, a bicycle, or even a combination of both. They understand the bicycle as a means of transportation, yet may not understand the bicycle as a recreational tool. Playing in the street is something your mother warned you about.

With the increase in recreational cyclists on the roadway due to the "Lance Effect", SoCal drivers will probably become less and less understanding of cyclists in general. The "What are you doing in the road?" attitude that is already in the minds of many motorists seems to be getting worse. This is especially true when I don my "serious" gear and throw a leg over my relatively expensive bicycle for that .5 mile ride to the Class I river path near me. Hopefully those negative motorist attitudes don't spill too far over into the netherworld of utility cycling. I rather enjoy riding to and from work, which is a fringe benefit for any utility cyclist who does not have to ride a bicycle to get where they need to go. It still can't be called "recreational".


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