Kevin Paul Dupont could profit from this example. If you don't read the Globe sports pages, you miss his column. He is an admitted--proud, even--hater of bicyclists. (Much of the year, he covers hockey, by the way: make of that what you will.) Being in the sports pages perhaps assures him of an audience--one whose collective knuckles drag when they walk, but an audience all the same.
Let us take his July 1, 2012 column as our text for today. (Note: you may need a subscription to read this.) To the extent that any print rant can be said to contain arguments, this column seems to argue that:
- Kids today don't ride bicycles
- Therefore adults shouldn't; adult cyclists shouldn't inconvenience people who drive machines that weigh 100 times more than childish bicycles
- Since all Dupont ever sees are groups of cyclists in bright costumes, that must be all of them, and they must have some comical objective, like riding in the Tour de France
First, in many places, we see fewer children on bicycles because we see fewer children doing anything independent. His nostalgic recollection of about 55 years ago goes back to the time when riding bikes was basic training for driving. I see no evidence that lack of such childhood training has improved anything on the roads.
If kids don't ride bikes but, instead, adults take it up de novo, doesn't that rather ruin the argument that cycling is a childish pastime? So are baseball and hockey, a thought which is close to heresy in the Sports pages.
Dupont's third point takes us back to the Ballantine hypothesis. One cyclist, especially in street clothes, is invisible. Same goes for one motorcyclist. Ten cyclists in bright colours, riding in close formation, are not only visible but present a challenge to narrow minds in cars. Dupont sees no other cyclists but road bikers en peleton because all the others are invisible--to him, and to everyone who doesn't want to share with anything having fewer than four wheels. What's scary is that those invisible cyclists probably include children. (Remember, his entire argument that kids don't ride bikes rests on a single slender sampling.)
Coming to this insight, I have to revise my previous comment that bicyclists don't have the recourse to intimidation that motorcyclists have. Evidently they do, at least to the heart of a bike hater. For any two-wheeled vehicle there is safety in numbers. The bicycle can't generate loud enough noise to call attention to itself, but its rider can resort to loud colours and bright lights to achieve the same end. Another Ballantine observation is that an urban cyclist should be decked out like a Christmas tree. It's not comical at all: it's survival.
I have little doubt that most bike haters are also anti-motorcycle. But they can't say so in public, lest the Hell's Angels show up at the front door to express their feelings. It seems safer to them to attack the smaller number of perceived outsiders on the weaker vehicle, a group the hater perceives as comical and defenceless.
Dupont comments that he finds bicycles "complicated." This opens the door to yet another possible motivation of bike-haters: jealousy. If one never learnt to ride a bike, one might direct one's anger and frustration at that failure toward those who did learn.
This is probably the point at which Dupont rises up to say that his column was entertainment, not journalism. I agree that it isn't journalism. It is the sort of drivel that most of us have produced under deadline pressure at one time or another. But the Globe, having little that passes for sound editorial judgment, actually prints such copy. The trouble with this form of "entertainment" is that it validates hatred of the more psychotic variety: the type that deliberately grazes or hits cyclists, opens doors in their path, assaults them when they're stopped, runs them off the road, or pulls guns on them. I'm not making those examples up. They've all happened to me or fellow cyclists. No, Kevin, I'm not entertained.
Perhaps, as Harrumpher commented on my last go, bike-hating is a secret handshake of solidarity. If so, what an utter waste. A rational society would direct its outrage at individual offenders on public ways, no matter what vehicle, if any, they use. Applying the same curse equally to one group, and that the least numerous, is nothing but hairy chest-pounding. I don't expect that sort of rationality anytime soon. Kevin, hie thee to a hockey rink.