Just when I think the internet is getting boring and there's nothing any good left to discover, along come two blogs I'd not yet seen before and in which I immediately fell in love. They are "Pondero: To Weigh, Consider, Reflect" by Chris Johnson in Sanger, Texas, and "Lovely Bicycle" by Constance Winters AKA "Velouria" of Somerville, MA. Here are their blog banner/logos, links, and a brief snippet from each. I happily and excitedly visit both of these sites on a daily basis and encourage you to check them out.
Sample post from Pondero, including his photos and text from 1-6-11:A bicycle rolls down into the valley, and from rough pavement to a gravel road. A stiff wind lays down, replaced by silent stillness. A sun's warmth is overcome by a crisp chill. A blue winter sky turns grey, then darker yet. A man's workday pace relaxes into dawdling. And the bicycle climbs out of the valley, behind a small beam of light, as darkness covers everything like a blanket.
Lately, there has been some discussion in the comments about whether drivers display more courtesy when cyclists ride upright bicycles and dress in "regular" clothing. One reader wrote that "the uprightness [is] more visible and [the clothing] maybe less offensive to your average driver... The images generated revolve around Mary Poppins. Only a monster would do anything mean to Mary Poppins" (Christopher Fotos, December 10, 2010). Do you agree?
When Bike Snob NYC poked fun at the Tweed Ride last week in his typically colourful manner, I was laughing my head off about the associations with colonialism and Civil War re-enactments: I never found Tweed Rides appealing for precisely those reasons. But I disagree with his conclusion that nice clothes on a bike are generally "not traffic calming." It's one thing to be dressed in what appears to be period costume, joined by dozens of others who have done the same while taking a joyride through the city. It's another thing entirely to be cycling to work in a suit and a wool overcoat, because that is what you normally wear to work.
Speaking solely from my own experience, I'd noticed as soon as I started cycling for transportation that drivers are nicer to me when I dress "normally." And since having begun to ride a roadbike recreationally, the difference between how I am treated on the roads when on a bike with drop bars, wearing "sporty clothing" and my hair tucked away, in comparison to how I am treated when on an upright bike in "city clothing," with my work bag in the basket and my hair visible, is notable. The majority of the time, when a driver is rude to me or impatient with me, I am on my roadbike - which is odd, since I am faster on a roadbike than I am on an upright bike, and thus should be less "in the way." To me, this just confirms that drivers' perceptions of how annoying a cyclist is, are entirely subjective. You can be going 10mph and somehow this might be okay, or you can be going 25mph and they might still be annoyed.
In part, I think the idea of not wanting to harm Mary Poppins is valid - in the sense that a cyclist dressed "normally" looks more human to the driver. The way people process each other visually and emotionally is governed by a complicated system of simulation and self-recognition (this is actually my research specialty, so I've spent a lot of time thinking about it!). And from that point of view, it makes sense to speculate that the more "I am human! I am you!" signals we give off when cycling, the more empathy a driver will feel towards us. Dehumanisation, on the other hand, makes it easier to cause harm to another human being - because we fail to simulate their emotional state and relate to their suffering. And dehumanisation is facilitated by things like uniforms (one reason it is easier to kill soldiers and war prisoners, than civilians), or anything else that obscures individuality and hides signs of "humanness."
Read the full story, and comment, here.
(Note I quickly became so enamored with LovelyBicycle!, and am so impressed with the site's readership and large number of commenters, that I signed on as a Site Sponsor for both Rough Riders and AdventureCORPS, hence the logos for both on her site.)