Killing machines

I want to demonstrate a similarity I’ve noticed between racism and bias against cyclists.

Have you ever noticed our unconscious bias towards minority groups like Black British people or African Americans means that if one member of the group does something wrong, the entire group is tarnished? If one African American commits a crime then all African Americans are guilty. This doesn’t happen when a white person commits a crime. You never see the headline, “White Scotsman guilty of murder” and thereafter all white Scottish men are implicated and suddenly untrustworthy.

The same bias is true for cycling.

If one cyclist goes through a red light, suddenly all cyclists are despised and dangerous. Everyone feels the need to tell me about the cyclist they saw go through a red light but no one, not once, has ever told me about the motorist they saw go through a red light. Why not?

In the news recently was the headline, “Cyclist shoots pedestrian” but how often do you see, “Motorist shoots pedestrian“? Instead the headline would read, “Drive-by shooting” or “Fatal shots fired from motor vehicle“. The perpetrator becomes an object, a thing – the car. Not the human who pulled the trigger inside the car. However for the cyclist the converse is true. The human is the perpetrator – not the vehicle.  We say “cyclist kills pedestrian” but if there’s a car involved it becomes, “car accident kills pedestrians“. A cyclist is not the same as a motor vehicle. The cyclist is a human. A motor vehicle is an object, a machine.

Motor vehicles cause far more damage and deaths than bicycles ever could and yet one cyclist going through a red light tarnishes an entire minority group. A cyclist going through a red light is not the same as a motorist (see what I did there?) going through a red light. A motorist is in a vehicle weighing more than 1 tonne that’s filled with a highly flammable liquid. The consequences of going through the red light for a motorist are potentially much more severe than for a 70kg human on a 20kg, fuel-less bike. Let’s never forget that and start using the right terminology. A motorist kills pedestrians and cyclists, not the motor vehicle. A motorist goes through red lights, not the motor vehicle.

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