Why Cyclists are Divided

It's chilly and I'm wearing a T-shirt, sitting on the sidewalk outside Tokyo Station and I'm leaning against my bike that is bagged behind me. I recently read a blog post on the blog 'let's go ride a bike' about a friend who organized a ride and referred to it as a critical mass kind of ride. There was lots of publicity and some negative responses from auto drivers but also from other cyclists. She wondered aloud how it is that we as cyclists are often pitted against each other instead of standing (or riding) side by side.
I think I know one reason why and I've experienced it first hand.

I think cyclists find 'parties' to adhere to because they need identity.

And here's my anecdotal evidence:
I grew up Mormon in Maine. I was always the 'Mormon Kid' and was more conservative than most everyone I knew. I moved to Utah and 'poof!' my life long identity was vaporized and suddenly I was a liberal. It took me some time to re-identify myself and I began riding my bicycle everywhere as well. I then moved to Oregon. My identity shifted yet again. I stood out as Mormon again, but the fact that I rode my bicycle everywhere did little to set me apart from the rest of the Portlanders I saw daily. Now I'm still relatively new to Cycling (3 years or so) but I think that just as I have adjusted my identity and looked for ways to define myself cyclists may do that with cycling. How are you different than all the other people riding their bikes? If you live in a place (like Utah) where just riding makes you stand out, it's easy to become friends with anyone on 2 wheels, but when you live in Portland, you no longer stand out and who you are as a cyclist (something cyclists cling to) starts to disappear, so you reinforce it with opinions within cycling. Now riding is no longer enough! You must ride a certain way, or be involved in local politics, or shun cars or wear spandex or whatever. American cyclists have fallen in love with being different, and as more people start getting on bikes and following their lead, they forget that it was cycling, not their identity, that was most important to begin with.
Let's let our passion for riding build and encourage instead of destroy and divide.
In a country dominated by the automobile we can't afford to pull in different directions. Regardless of what you believe, lets not discourage others in their journey to define themselves and also enjoy riding bikes.


  1. Yup: helmet/no helmet: bike lanes/vehicular cycling... It's very odd. I have a the same experience being a christian: in church circles I'm too 'liberal' (care about the environment etc) and then I stick out for being 'religious' amongst people who care about the environment like I do...

  2. I understand that one. Caring about the environment and riding a bicycle are totally compatible with being religious, and it puzzles me how people sometimes think otherwise. In any case, having positive ideals (as apposed to ones that exclude or attack) is important and makes it much easier to get along. I may be pro-wearing a helmet, but that doesn't mean I have to dislike or attack those who choose not to.