What in the world could these three topics possibly have in common?
A lot actually.
On an evolutionary scale humans are not well adapted to motor vehicles. Which is why; after all the money poured into safety programs to make roads and cars safer; we still have an astonishing death toll and injury rate.
Technology has far outpaced our ability to adapt to the high rates of speed. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. But it certainly does mean we should be more judicious and realistic in our expectations.
The auto industry lobbyists have created a political environment which is designed to encourage auto use.
Where the roads are designed and engineered for a human pace, we will still find destructive drivers. It’s not the roads or even the cars which give us so much grief. It’s the people.
Which brings us to white supremacists. The desire to cluster in groups and classify people based on outward appearance is detrimental to our ability to evolve and move forward in society. As long as we think in terms of “them” and “those people” we are fucked.
White supremacists have an inherent taste for Ford Trucks. This isn’t by accident. Henry Ford was a classic white supremacist and anti-Semite. He purchased a newspaper for the sole purpose of having an editorial section which would “expose” the “Jewish Conspiracy” and expel both Jew and those who were Jewish sympathizers out of the country. It is worth mentioning that the editorials were based on a fictional story. But Henry Ford “believed” them to be true. He blamed his distaste for reading on his willful ignorance. Highly praised by Hitler, Henry Ford and is brand of vehicles were soon to become a symbol of nationalistic pride. Even their t.v. commercials, radio ads, print ads, and social media ads are worded to reinforce a sense of the “white” working man’s conservative pride.
When it comes to cyclists and harassing interactions with motorists, Ford Trucks rank high on the list of drivers most likely to harass and victimize someone riding a bicycle.
It is the supremacists desire to eliminate anything and anyone whom he/she perceives as a threat to their kind. Telling cyclists to behave under duress, to just “smile and wave” as some asshole comes along and threatens your life, is internalized racism against your own group. It’s a classic sexism that women deal with on a daily basis and men practice it on each other, most often when they are cyclists.
Which brings us to bike lanes.
I bet you’re wondering how I’m going to tie all this together. I hope I don’t disappoint.
Nobody likes to be harassed while exercising their basic rights. The desire to enjoy a stress free commute or bike ride is something that anyone who rides a bike desires. Even myself. Segregation is a word which is often used by white supremacists and cyclists alike.
Each group has something in common. They all want to be separated from each other. Whites from blacks and auto drivers from cyclists.
Sharing the road in its basic sense is saying “To move forward in society, we must all get along.”
And it’s right. We can not reasonably separate (separation is a more appropriate word than segregation) everyone at every point in the road. There is some point where we are all going to have to get along. We don’t have to like each other but we can respect each other.
Choosing how you talk to someone is a huge part of that cohesiveness. Communicating by hand signals, revving engines, honking horns, and vocalization can all be used to harm or clearly express an intention. The former is most frequently seen in the social misfits of society i.e. the white supremacists. The later is to simply convey a message and show courtesy to your fellow road travelers.
Telling people that segregation isn’t going to solve their problems will continue to fall on deaf ears. If you don’t believe me just talk to an advocate for bicycle infrastructure. Telling them that segregation/separation can make motorist and cyclist interactions more strife filled will have them spouting off a litany of phrases which can almost word for word be matched to the speech of your average racist.
So how then can we bring together better infrastructure without the taint of racism?
- Remove all mandatory use laws from legislation.
- Remove all language which implies that bike infra is require, superior, or necessary for safe cycling.
- Educate drivers that they are required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists; when appropriate.
- Mandatory cycling education for drivers and students. This can be a classroom experience for those who are physically unable to cycle.
- Lower speed limits.
- Reconsider zoning laws to increase construction which promotes walking and biking as the main form of transportation.
- Quality Bikeways which give a sense of expected and respected to the cyclists who are using them.
A bikelane is a gutter paint strip. A bikeway is carefully thought out, designed, and engineered highway for the exclusive use of cyclists.
The majority of it will always boil down to education. Truly the best way for us to overcome systemic racism is education.
Education, Legislation, and Infrastructure.