Cyclist Labelling

Anyone who’s spoken to me in the last couple years is probably bored of hearing about my bicycle. I love my bicycle and I love cycling — to the point that I am starting to hate walking and how slow it is. I love the feeling of wind through my hair (well, what wind can make it through the holes in my cycling helmet) and the rush that comes from keeping up with the taxis going down the hill. I also love talking about cycling, about infrastructure improvements, about infrastructure failings, about my experiences cycling…. (ask me sometime, when you’ve got a few hours free)

But when I talk to people about cycling, I have to make it clear that I don’t represent all cyclists. In fact, there’s as many different types of cyclist as there are types of driver or pedestrian. So here’s a couple terms that could be used to describe me:

  • I am a female cyclist. It shouldn’t make a difference but it seemingly does to some. From what I can see on the streets of Edinburgh, there’s one female cyclist for every 3 male cyclists, which agrees with the various websites I’ve read. There are still many of us, but we are a minority.
  • I am a transportation cyclist (a.k.a. utility cyclist). I cycle instead of using a car, every chance I get (though, to be fair, I usually only cycle as far as the nearest train station). I have my Brompton which folds up to go on the train or the bus as necessary, and I have a Burley Travoy for when I have a lot to carry on my bike. I don’t cycle for sport and very rarely do I go for a wander on my bicycle. I don’t like Lycra and would rather cycle in everyday clothes because it’s more convenient for me (the only cycling-specific clothing I tend to wear is my fluorescent pink cycling jacket, so cars see me). I enjoy running my errands by bicycle but, if I don’t have somewhere to go, I tend to stay home.
  • I am a vehicular cyclist, partially. Vehicular cyclists want to be treated like any other vehicle on the road and they behave like any other vehicle on the road (this includes stopping at red lights, yielding to buses pulling out, not filtering through lanes, etc). Unfortunately, though, ‘vehicular cyclist’ is also the term ascribed to any cyclist who campaigns against cycling infrastructure because they believe that cyclists belong on the roads with any other vehicle (which I don’t). I’m of the opinion that I will use the roads and expect to be treated as any other vehicle on the road (admittedly, a slower one, perhaps not unlike a tractor), until there are safe cycling routes that are equal to or superior to the main roads in terms of convenience of use. It also means that I rage just as much as a car driver  when I see another cyclist flaunting the rules of the road.
According to this study by the Department for Transport (which I highly suggest everyone read), I can also be defined thus:
  • Reasons for Cycling: Experiential aspects of cycling
  • Ways of Cycling: Assertion

So, before you next start ranting about cyclists (or, if you’re a cylist, ranting about drivers), pause to consider — we cyclists are individuals, and that cyclist over there who just ran the red light was not me.

5 thoughts on “Cyclist Labelling

  1. Thoroughly agree, and quite closely match your profile myself (even down to the Burley Travoy, although I have a Dahon MuSL, and a different gender :-), I too cycle in everday(ish) clothing, but I do not wear a helmet (having read all the evidence and deciding that they have very few benefits). I do some long distance cycling (C2C and the like), so not entirely utilitarian. I like the mix of train and bike, and I also try to use the roads legally and according to the HWCode, (although I don’t think its entirely possible due to poor road design in places). …and I too hate to see cyclists behaving badly (although occasionally it seems to be a rationale response to a system that isn’t designed for their existence). Anyway nice to read such a grounded blog post!

  2. Get rid of the helmet and FEEL the wind blowing thru your hair.

    Helmet wearing sends the message that cycling s dangerous, discouraging the take up of cycling.

    More cyclist on the street increases awareness/visibility of cyclists to drivers, and increase overall safety to all cyclists.

  3. This is true and I would much rather not wear a helmet — but if anything DID happen to me whilst I’m cycling in the city, I’d rather not have the insurance company saying “Well, you should have been wearing a helmet, we won’t pay you as much because you didn’t follow the advice in Item 59 of the Highway Code“. Until I have a segregated cycle path, I’ll continue wearing a helmet 🙁

  4. There is a category of cyclist you missed out, the citizen cyclists, the one who don’t know that they are part of a tribe or an out group, who don’t know that they are supposed to dress differently because of their form of transport, they don’t know that they are supposed to “take the lane”, and for the most part have no idea of cycle politics. They just get on and do it. This is Not a statement of right or wrong, just an observation.

    Sure they would love to have safer infrastructure, wouldn’t we all, which is why Edinburgh Cycle Chic supports Pedal on Parliament.

  5. I wasn’t trying to give a comprehensive list of categories, just ones I felt applied to me. Until very recently, I was a “citizen cyclist”, by your definition — The only reason I even learned about the tribes or groups was after many conversations with other cyclists and my realisation that I agreed with some and not with others in their reasons/methods/etc. I found it interesting that there were these divisions at all and read more about them and thought others might find them interesting, too. It’s always frustrating to be lumped in with others (usually in the form of “oh, bloody cyclists!”), but it’s also reassuring that there are others on the roads who’re like me.

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