What I learn from my bike

I read this piece about what bike riding taught Jeremy Dowsett about white privilege.

I'm both white and a bike rider, and I know what he's talking about. I ride in NYC, so I'm an urban rider. We have lots of bike lanes, but they aren't respected by drivers and pedestrians. Delivery trucks park in the bike lane on narrow streets, forcing me to merge with car traffic. They even do it on fairly steep hills, where I'm moving much more slowly than the cars. This is something subtle that I'm sure is missed by most drivers. They take up the same amount of space, and they're moving fast, and they obviously feel pain when I move into "their" space, but did they notice that the space reserved for me is occupied by a UPS truck? Sometimes by a cop van. I've even been lectured by a cop who was blocking the bike lane on safe riding procedures. "Yes sir," I said. This is NYC where cops are obeyed, not talked back to (except on my blog).

I've been hit by cars twice. Once when I was a kid, and once a couple of years ago. In each case I was riding too bravely, blamed myself, but also in each case the driver was asserting rights that weren't his. When I'm riding I'm at a disadvantage. I make up for it, or try to, by being especially alert. I've also found that sometimes it's dangerous not to be assertive, it can leave you in a place where you're much more vulnerable than if you take what's yours by law. But more often the right answer is to accept indignity and move on, and save the fight for a battle I have a chance of winning.

Another thing riding teaches is the power of the wind. Before I was fully aware of how powerful a force the wind is on bike riders, I was always surprised at the turnaround point on a ride to discover that I had been riding with the wind at my back. I didn't know! Usually the feeling is one of power and fitness. "All this riding has really paid off, I feel so much stronger," I would think, when that wasn't what was going on. I just had the wind at my back. And conversely, riding into a head wind can be miserable. It feels like you're a fish swimming upstream, and if you think of air as a fluid, that's exactly what you're doing.

You don't feel a tail wind so much if you're getting it, but when the wind is working against you it's everything.


Last built: Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 10:51 PM

By Dave Winer, Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 10:01 AM. It's even worse than it appears.