Should we stop using the word ‘cyclist’?
So asks Laura Laker in the pages of the Guardian, thereby adding to our collection of classic sentences from said newspaper. This is promptly followed by another contender:
As the repair man rummaged around in my gas oven, I tried to explain something to him about cyclists.
Which perhaps conveys a flavour of what follows.
Stopping using the term “cyclist” has been up for debate since an Australian study last week found 31% of respondents viewed cyclists as less than human.
Specifically, a minority of motorists have been known to indulge in “humorous references to violence against cyclists,” which is entirely unwarranted, apparently, and must not be allowed to continue.
It is easy to dehumanise people who cycle… because they often dress differently and move in a mechanical way, and drivers cannot see their faces… Public references to violence against cyclists are not uncommon, and rarely given the same condemnation as, for example, violence towards women or bullying.
It occurs to me that cyclists are more likely to be the subject of unkind humour if their behaviour, not their chosen outfit, is causing a problem, or is perceived as such. And note the bold conflation of actual violence with merely joking about it.
Perhaps one small step could be to think carefully about the language we use. We could do as Sarah Storey suggests in her new role as Sheffield’s cycling and walking commissioner: have one word for people who cycle for transport, another for people who cycle for sport – and remember that we are all people, no matter how we use the roads.
Well, courtesy towards other road users is a necessary social lubricant and, generally speaking, something to be encouraged. Readers are of course welcome to speculate as to whether changing the word cyclist to people who cycle for some particular purpose about which I’m supposed to care will make anyone’s journey more fragrant, harmonious and morally uplifted. It may also be worth noting Ms Laker’s tacit assumption that only drivers are in need of behavioural correction, as if cyclists were faultless and incapable of being inconsiderate. Which in turn hints at what may be a factor in some motorists’ limited sympathy for People Of The Pedal.
Via Orwell & Goode.