Slow Down! And Four Other Ways to Make People Love Cyclists

Vancouver bicyclist

[quote_right][feature_box title=”TDM TAKEAWAY” title_color=”fff” header_color=”369″]As cycling becomes more mainstream, the image of cyclists is changing as well. We need to promote this new and better image.[/feature_box][/quote_right]

Just as there are two Americas, there are two types of cyclists.

First, there are the Cyclists with a capital “C,” clad in Lycra and obsessed with speed. These cyclists probably spent upwards of $1,000 on a bike, are often male, and everything about them signals that cycling is not for mere mortals. These adrenaline junkies consider traffic laws mere “suggestions.”

Then there are the casual cyclists, also known as “The Rest of Us.” This group is more diverse and civil. They seldom wear Spandex, and can be seen cycling while smartly dressed in pedestrian or business attire. Fairly cautious and often inexperienced, this group of people consider cycling less a lifestyle choice than simply a mobility option.

Chris Bruntlett

Chris Bruntlett

It is this second group of cyclists, says Modacity, a progressive communications firm operating out of Vancouver, that we must pay attention to and reach in order to create a cycling culture that matters. Modacity wants to mainstream and normalize cycling as a mobility option.

In other words, dad bods of the world unite, because cycling is for you, too.

Chris and Melissa Bruntlett, the creators of Modacity, have advocated for pro-bike policies and the normalization of cycling since 2010. In that year, the Bruntletts sold their family car and made the conscious decision to rely on public transit and cycling for their mobility needs. Chris and Melissa also have two small children accompanying them on their endeavor.

They are not a family of militant, extreme-sports cyclists – and that’s the point.

Just recently, BikeArlington – which educates Arlington, Virginia residents and visitors about the area’s many bike amenities – discovered Modacity through its award-winning series of videos for Copenhagen’s Cycle Chic brand. (Modacity is partnering with BikeArlington on a project that you’ll hear more about later in the summer.)

Modacity’s recommendations for mainstreaming bicycling

Melissa Bruntlett

Melissa Bruntlett

Over the past several years, the Bruntletts have watched (and helped to realize) Vancouver’s transformation. Their recommendations are as applicable in the U.S. as they are Canada.

On the policy and infrastructure side, the Bruntletts advocate for more and better bike infrastructure, especially protected bike lanes, lower automobile speed limits, more bikeshare systems, and elimination of helmet laws.

Cyclists have to do their part as well – not just advocating for better policies, but thinking about the role they play in the public perception of cyclists. By adhering to laws, slowing down, and giving thought to these other ideas, we’ll create a more inclusive, more successful, landscape for all cyclists:

  1. Enjoy the Journey. First and foremost, this means slowing down and being present in your environment. Bicycling is often the most-efficient means of travel, and slowing down to be a bit more safe and careful probably isn’t going to change that – and is certainly more comforting and civil to those around you.
  2. Try a Cruiser Bike. Upright riding lends itself to a more relaxed, slower ride, and more importantly, allows you to interact with your environment and neighbors. A cruiser (or Dutch-style) bike may not be fancy or win the Tour de France, but it may make your commute more pleasant, so why not try one out. Plus, says Melissa Bruntlett, “everyone needs n+1 number of bikes, where n is the number of bikes you already own.” (There are also a lot of options such as regular shorts or pants that hide the Lycra underneath.)
  3. Dress for the Destination. Specialized bicycle clothing is a signaling device. It communicates that cycling is for experts, not for everyone. Think about whether Lycra is for practical reasons or to gratify your own ego. When at all possible, dress for the destination. It won’t always be possible in hot climates or bad weather, but it may be more practical than you realize. 
  4. Helmets Optional. This is a controversial subject, and one the Bruntletts try to stay away from, but they believe helmets are part of the specialized gear signaling that cycling is for the experts. Plus, helmets keep people off bikes, and the most important way to keep cyclists safe is get more people bicycling. There’s safety in numbers. Also, as Chris Bruntlett says, “Helmet laws make bikeshare systems unworkable.”
  5. Be a Creative, Vocal, Leader. Local government leadership already embedded that supports bicycling is terrific, but this is something we have little control over. Rather, be a leader among your community, and be outspoken. During a recent visit to Arlington, Chris Bruntlett was blunt in his assessment of Columbia Pike. “It’s an absolute disaster for cyclists,” he said. Be persistent in your efforts, and don’t be afraid to be wrong. Every single bike-infrastructure project in Vancouver, Chris points out, encountered opposition. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

What do you want your cycling community to look like? How do you think cyclists should play a part in this transformation?

Photos courtesy of Modacity

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29 Comments or Mentions

27 Comment(s)

yoooks

This is so arrogant. Thanks for telling us athletes we don’t belong in your version of cycling. Generalizing that just those who enjoy the sport of “Cycling” don’t follow laws and are aggressive to others is way off base. There are hundreds of types of cyclists, and we don’t need to be divided because of it.

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Steve O

Whoever wrote this is not involved in cycling. I don’t get the either/or division of people on bikes.

Ya know, I own drawers full of specialized bike gear AND I ride to work in a suit. Which one am I?

I am not cautious nor inexperienced, but I’m not necessarily fast either. Unless I want to be. And I also want all this better mobility infrastructure, too.
I think a lot of what we want to accomplish to help more people on bikes and what is in this article is right, but starting off by stereotyping didn’t set a very good tone.

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dangerd

Hey Mr. and Mrs. Bruntlett,
It’s over 100F today and I wore my lycra. It is comfortable and keeps my balls from sweating off in a pair of jeans! Come to Los Angeles and try biking in your street clothes.
I follow all the traffic laws and even stop at stop signs where there is nary a car to be seen.
Don’t be so divisive. Most of “The Rest of Us.” don’t know the traffic laws as well as I do and sometimes I fear for them out on the streets of Los Angeles as they are usually the ones to get squashed by a car not “Cyclists with a capital “C”

I do agree on most of the other things you say. L.A. is not Vancouver though and as such I will continue to wear what is comfortable and ride in what I perceive as safe, i.e. a helmet for when I go “fast”. I do not believe that everyone should be required to wear one though as if they are toodiling along on bike share / or on the way to work in their suit on a Cruiser bike they may not need one.

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Kurt M

I disagree with much of this article. Per the author I would be a gasp, “Cyclist” as I wear cycling specific gear when conditions warrant just as I wear the right clothing when skiing. I ride my bike every day commuting to and from work, utility rides and energetic pleasure rides. I ride the right bike for the task and wear the right clothing as someone would do with any task or activity. I carry myself well on the road with cars and other cyclists. I have positively influenced others who have also taken up cycling.

Those that respect and enjoy the many positive aspects of riding bikes are the true leaders and positive cycling advocates. They are the ones that can best relate to non riders and riders alike. What someone wears or rides is not an important aspect, how we carry ourselves with others and the message we give is. as example to advocate a cruiser bike to someone that lives 10 miles from work would likely produce unhappy results for the new rider. We should listen to curious non riders to better understand what they want to do and what they are ill informed of with regards to cycling. Guide them along as they learn to add cycling into their lifestyle as they see fit. An inexperienced potential well rounded cyclist might be first attracted to the fast riding aspect and then find that riding to work is great too or vice versa. If you only advocate a single facet of cycling and denigrate other aspects you hurt cycling as a whole. What cycling does not need is many uninformed, poorly equipped people with bikes. they will at best end up giving up and at worst get hurt.

There are not 2 americas, There is one america and many at the same time. The same could also be said of cycling.

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Andrew J. Besold, LCI

WOW!! Sorry that I enjoy the sport of cycling! After that first paragraph of hateful language I stopped reading event though I know where you were going.

The only problem I see lately with cycling are these “urban planner” neophytes like Mr. Goddin, who know nothing about the recreational sport of cycling that then deride those who’ve been riding for decades (by the way I’m an active transportation planner that studied under THE Dr. John Pucher).

Mr. Goddin, why don’t you try and get on a road bike and go for a 30 mile ride through the beautiful countryside before you disparage hundreds of thousands of cyclists who love to go for such rides for the pure joy of the sport and do so in a completely legal manner. You might find that spandex just helps.

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Allen Muchnick

Defaming competent, experienced, and faster bicyclists as speed-obsessed, law-breaking, super macho, adrenaline junkies is erroneous, misguided, and counterproductive. Perhaps the author and/or the Bruntletts resent such bicyclists because they plainly demonstrate that no special athletic prowess or courage is needed to bike safely and comfortably on busy urban arterials without any dedicated bicycle facilities.

Without the hazard of streetcar tracks, Arlington’s 30 MPH Columbia Pike roadway is reasonably bikeable, and is far more bike friendly than the higher-speed multilane suburban arterials that predominate in the DC suburbs outside the Beltway. Of course, reducing the posted speed limit to 25 MPH and striping well-designed bike lanes would significantly improve bicycling conditions.

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Paul Goddin

I believe that the Bruntletts’ message is one of diversity and inclusivity, of widening the tent to welcome all cyclists, and reaching the concerned 60% who are hesitant to get on a bike. That message resonates with me, and I believe a discussion within our community about how this (very important) group can be convinced to get on a bike is important. I am sorry if my rather broad portrayal of cyclists detracted from that message.

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Vince

paul goddin, you know nothing about cycling or cyclists.

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Dai Toyama

Mr Goddin,

I’d call it a completely wrong portrayal of cyclists. Do you have anything against those of us who ride road bikes in lycra? I do that when appropriate. I ride in plain clothing while running errands or riding short-distance. Please do not divide the cycling community any further.

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Dave

I disagree with one of your early statements. It has been my observation in Edmonton that the casual cyclists are the worst offenders when it comes to skirting traffic laws. Riding on the sidewalk is by far the biggest offence. While I understand they may not feel safe riding in traffic, it diminishes respect for all cyclists. Put on a helmet and get off the sidewalk! I enjoy cycling and I also enjoy the challenge of keeping up with traffic and I can do it without my stretchy pants 😉

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Marty McSmarth

The reactions here are hilarious.

I picture spandex-clad cyclists hunkered over their laptops, smartphones, and tablets, sniveling and typing one million words a minute in response to this article.

Let me break it down for you, angry cyclists.

If it doesn’t apply to you, then it doesn’t apply; but most of what Goddin stated is correct. There are GENERALLY two types of cyclists- casual users and experienced cyclist. They are different. They bike differently. They value the activity differently. On weekends, they hang out in different circles: the experienced cyclists getting together and high fiving about their cycling stories, and the casual cyclists head off to coffee shops and backyard cook outs and discuss the latest indie band and java flavor.

I think I speak for everyone other than the experienced cyclists, when I say- the streets are no place for a bike. Find a bike trail near an abandoned rail line, and play in your sandboxes there. When you’re done being children, head to your local car dealership and buy yourself a big boy toy. Leave the bikes to the kids- at least when they break the rules (which ALL cyclists do), we can pass it off as childhood naivety. When you “pro’s” do it, it’s embarrassing to watch.

Now if you excuse me, I have to get back to my job, and responsibilities, something cyclists would know nothing about.

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George

You only get to be “experienced” if you get out and ride. Your characterizations are off the mark and merely further the misconceptions. Of course, you are trolling too. Bravo on trying to bring the conversation down a notch. Nice try.

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Marty McSmarth

Oh, George. I don’t even know where to begin, and I’m concerned that if I begin, I’ll not know where to end.

My characterizations are spot on and reflective of the two types of cyclists that exist. Casual commuters, even those who have been commuting for years by bike, do not self-identify as “cyclists”. They simply use a bike to get from point a to point b. They follow the rules of the road.

“Experienced” simply refers to people who have crossed the line from casual users to spandex-wearing, race-partaking, strava-bragging, rule-breaking users. You all act like the rioters in recent cities. You have the numbers, so collectively you begin to break the law, because there is no accountability- and if anyone tries to stop you, you gang up and become bullies. This comment section is a great example.

So call me a troll if you’d like. Sling your insults and explain-away the cycling dissenters by labeling us trolls or know-nothings. It doesn’t change the fact that biking is for children. If you absolutely must partake in an activity designed for elementary-aged individuals, perhaps you could pass the time on a tire-swing or twisty slide. Maybe grab yourself an ice cream cone afterwards.

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Paul Mackie

As the editor of this article, I fee the need to step in and defend Paul Goddin a bit.

I can understand why some hard-core cyclists could be turned off by his somewhat tongue-in-cheek portrayal of them as scofflaws in traffic. Indeed, some of them are scofflaws, as are some drivers and some pedestrians and some scooter riders.

I do think we erred in publishing the part of the article propagating that there are “two Americas.” Even if Goddin was painting with a very broad brush and joking to some extent. Cyclists need to come together under one tent with understandable messages that many people can embrace. There is no room for divisiveness.

As to the main point of the article, I do think that Goddin and the Bruntletts are right that all cyclists need to be hyper-aware of the way cyclists are generally perceived by drivers (and pedestrians and anyone else in another mode). We need to behave very well because the benefits of getting more people to take work and social trips (rather than just recreational) are so important to improve the quality of life throughout the world.

If all five suggestions Goddin and the Bruntletts offer work for you, great. If only two or three work for you, that’s great too. They are suggestions. We think they are good suggestions.

Paul

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George

Paul, the problem is the article in this way does cycling no service. Tongue and cheek, or no, it seems to do more to perpetuate the misconceptions than to reduce them. The problem is that was not a good forum for such a broad brush stroke when you are really trying to encourage cycling as a whole, by people who may be new to it, or considering it. There is a certain level of journalistic responsibility here that was dropped in favor of publishing a catchy article. It is easy enough to write a fun piece that works to unite folks vs. divide them. This, IMHO, was mostly a fail.

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VVill

Hmm: defending the author, or defending yourself as editor of a horrible article?

There is nothing in the tone to indicate this is tongue-in-cheek and it actually consciously panders towards those who already dislike bicycle riders (for good or bad reasons). It’s completely inflammatory and at the same time, needlessly apologetic on behalf of cyclists, while calling them militant and extreme.

You don’t “make people like cyclists”. Cyclists are people. (Cyclists are drivers, cyclists are commuters, cyclists are taxpayers, etc.)

You know what’s useful if you ride a cruiser up the Custis in the summer heat in your work attire? A shower at work. Of course, a lighter more efficient bike and moisture wicking clothing would also give you a better chance at “enjoying the journey”, but that might take away from the false ideal that getting around by bike here is just like cruising around the flat cycle utopia of Amsterdam.

I feel disappointed now that I actually bothered to visit Mobility Labs on Parking Day after reading this stupefying article. I would be embarrassed or even angry to be associated with your organization with a piece like this (and as someone who has volunteered with Bike Arlington, I am). You folks should seriously consider taking it down. (Just look at the “Marty” reply in the comments.)

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George

Lycra is not about “fast” or “competitive,” its about comfort. For many, cycling specific clothing works better for its intended purpose. The big thing here is a cyclist is a cyclist… we don’t really care what you wear as long as you are having a good time, being courteous to others, and following the traffic rules. Some of us out here ride for fitness, to go to run an errand, and to get to work. Whether you are trying to get from point A to point B to shop, socialize, or train, it’s all about cycling, and that’s what counts.

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Paul Goddin

Very good point, George, thank you. I do appreciate your thoughtful responses.

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Daniel

Who are you to say what is acceptable cycling?

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Marty McSmarth

Isn’t it obvious, Daniel? He is God. (din). Paul God(din).

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Lycra Rockstar

Only $1,000? Psh, get out of my way mortals.

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Jean SmilingCoyote

Where I live, Chicagoland, “casual cyclists” as just as liable to violating traffic laws as are the competitive cyclists clad in Lycra etc. These casual cyclists will ride where they’re not supposed to, blow through stop signs and red lights, fail to signal, ride the wrong way one one-way streets, ride the wrong way in a regular traffic lane, fail to yield to pedestrians, ride the wrong way on one-way bike-only lanes, fail to yield to fellow cyclists who have the right of way, and even deliberately strike pedestrians with fists and bikes when riding in places the law says they’re not allowed to. I am speaking from my own experience as well as that of many others. These offenders will also either curse people who remind them of the laws they’re violating, or hypocritically assent – and go on violating the laws.

As for “slowing down,” I wouldn’t ask any more of myself or my fellow cyclists any more than obeying all the traffic laws, and possibly breaking one if it’s necessary to avoid an accident. Speed limits apply to bicycles and I would not expect bicyclists to go slower than required. The other traffic laws apply regardless of speed. As a road and sidewalk user in various modes, I am concerned with reality, not perception.

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Swheely

If everyone on a bike started following the laws, drivers would still hate them. In the U.S., 40,000 people die in auto-related accidents each year. Countless more have their lives and bodies ripped apart. Next time you are out driving around, try going the speed limit and seeing how many others are passing you. It’s usually about 90%. So, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that speeding is likely a factor in many auto-related deaths. Yet, drivers still moan and complain about law-breaking cyclists. I am a cyclist and have been hit by cars three times. Each time, I was following the law. Not one ticket ever issued.
Drivers, shut up and quit complaining about cyclists that make you add two seconds to your commute.
Cyclists, also quit the complaining and please remember that we will always be outnumbered 1000-to-1. Those aren’t good odds. If you ride in/around traffic, keep in mind that it could cost you your life.

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Paul Mackie

Points taken and thanks for responding, Swheely.

On a couple points:

– I would argue that cyclists may add 2 seconds to the commute of drivers at the time of the encounter, but overall, I would think more cyclists would reduce a commute because that’s just more big-ole cars taken out of that driver’s way and unclogging the roads.

In D.C., the mode share of bicyclists during rush hour is around 4.5 percent. So at least in D.C. and most other big cities, cyclists aren’t outnumbered 1000 to 1. That breakdown, of course, isn’t the case in all rural areas and smaller towns.

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nlm

I understand the point of the article but the article could’ve been more strategic in how to get that message across. The entire point, which was a good one, has been derailed simply because of the 2 camp stereotype. Do not include negativity if you are are trying to do something positive because people will just focus on the negative parts. Cut out the first 3 paragraphs and the article would’ve been better received. I can understand wanting to have a provocative opening but again that technique should be used to complement the thesis rather than undermining the message.

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The Real Cyclist

wow…you “athletes” and other douche nozzles are 100% useless. If you are currently training for an upcoming cycling event, then OK, sport your ridiculous spandex with logos, helmets, and cycling shoes….all others that are NOT training need to check the mirror on how ridiculous pieces of human waste you are….riding a 20+ speed in your delusional Tour De France while you’re actually a laughing stock and rode hazard makes you less than human feces….if you feel comfortable wearing the “GEAR” while riding a CitiBike, then you’re more fooked up than anyone…SO, this article is 100% ACCURATE!!! for those that ask “which am I”, well if you’re a garbage man wearing a suit while picking up the trash, then you’re insane and should get shock therapy…but if you’re a garbage man wearing overalls while picking up the trash…then you’re a garbage man….sanitation engineer….fook you empty suit Steve O

there’s 3 kinds of cyclists…the @$$holes that think they are Lance Armstrong of days gone past but are just fat fooks or posers…..the leisure riders, those that will be in jeans or skirts while on a CitiBike….and the hybrid which is basically the bike messenger…

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DC_Commuter

I understand people don’t like the idea of classifying. Makes total sense… however, the message needs to be heard here. As a commuter in the DC area, I would love to bike to work instead of taking other forms of mass transit. I even attempted to do so… but unfortunately those that the article describes as serious cyclers do exist. They’re the ones flying up behind you on a narrow bike path, tailgating until they can fly by you. Or, as a pedestrian, these are the individuals that almost clip you as they zoom on by. I got tired of dealing with these maniacs and my bike to work commute was short lived.

Sure, the message may not have been expertly delivered, but it’s still worth considering. More people would forego the car and opt for biking if they didn’t have to contend with those of you expert cyclists that bully your way down the bike path. Have some common courtesy for all on the road.

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