Are You an Entitled Cyclist?
I often think that as advocates we should steer clear of words that get in the way of our central message. It’s one reason I criticized DOT for its “Don’t Be a Jerk” campaign; my firm belief is that you should never introduce language into a discussion you don’t want your opponent to use.
However, there are times when it’s worth it to embrace the words critics use. And while I bristle at the notion that there’s any such thing as a “cyclist,” I do think it’s worth it to take on the idea that people who ride bikes are somehow “entitled.”
When someone insults cyclists as entitled, he typically means that people who ride bicycles believe they should receive something special or extra to which they have no real right, even if that right is as basic as they come. In the world of bikes versus cars, this person believes that only drivers, as licensed, tax-paying members of society, are entitled to the majority of road space. It’s one reason car-owning cycling advocates in Park Slope confound bike lane opponents and must be ignored or insulted; it’s easier to stereotype people who believe in safe streets as unemployed hipsters who don’t represent “real” New Yorkers than it is to dwell in the complexities of urban modal choices.
So what does it really mean to be an entitled cyclist?
I came up with this list and realized that the things people who ride bicycles feel entitled to are no different than what everyone expects, be they on foot or behind the wheel of a car. This list could even be transposed to be a bill of rights for train passengers or air travelers.
- I am entitled to reach my destination alive and unharmed.
- I am entitled to travel free from verbal insults, intimidation, and threats of physical assault.
- I am entitled to safe infrastructure that is kept in a good state of repair.
- I am entitled to have my personal property not be subject to theft, especially if I take reasonable precautions against such actions.
- I am entitled to have my safety and rights under the law protected by the police.
Maybe it’s time to own the fact that cyclists are, yes, entitled. Whether you ride a bicycle to work or for recreation, to what else do you feel entitled?