Smug Cyclist Syndrome

There’s something about riding a bike that seems inherently subversive. In addition to being an inexpensive, democratic way to get around (little kids can do it! Blind folks, too! Short people, tall people, thin people, fat people, poor people, rich people – all can ride bikes!), bicycling is fun. It’s a little bit silly. It’s anti-authoritarian and irreverent, a symbolic nose-thumb at the Man.

Queen really put it best:

That’s why I get really annoyed by all the Spandex-clad, special shoe-wearing cyclists with bikes that cost more than my car on the Ship Canal Trail.* People who, often as not, don’t bother with a friendly “on your left” as they go whizzing by at top speed. People who glare ahead with unsmiling determination, sweating and grunting and clenching their jaws, claiming every paved surface as their proper domain. They make cycling seem so damn serious.

I have plenty of anecdotes about bikers blatantly refusing to dismount in pedestrian areas when politely asked to do so, barreling rudely past walkers, ignoring traffic laws, and riding on the sidewalk (I admit: I’m guilty of the last two).

But that’s not what bothers me. What drives me nuts is the gravity with which people approach an activity that, in my (admittedly insignificant) opinion, should be lighthearted and carefree.

Yes, I know that not everyone who dons a special outfit to ride their bike is smug and entitled. I think commuting by bike is a fantastic idea. I support bike lanes and bike-friendly infrastructure. I love to ride my bike, and use it for transportation as well as leisure. I understand that the fancy gear makes cycling easier, faster, more comfortable. Furthermore, I count serious cyclists –stretchy getup, pricey bikes, elite racing chops and all – among those I greatly respect and admire.

But… I also wish the bike commuters of this city would lighten up a bit.

*Yeah, I have a car. Cars are terrible and I’m part of the problem.


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