Though it will come as no surprise to anyone, we live in a distinctly divided world. I speak from my experience here in the United States, but it is clearly an issue that spans the world over. Seemingly every topic becomes embroiled in hateful, polarizing division. Gone are the days of discussion and understanding; replaced instead by extremist factions so loyal to their positions that they are incapable and unwilling to entertain any compromise or meaningful back and forth with the opposition.
It crops up in every aspect of our lives. Politics, social issues, human rights, racial injustice, climate change; the list goes on and on and on. As I've gotten deeper in the world of cycling, I have seen this beast rear it's unsightly head once again.
Cycling seems like the kind of activity/sport/hobby that should be a peaceful one. It gets you outside into nature, helps you stay healthy and fit, and has a positive impact on the environment. But I have to look no further than local bike shops to start to see that idyllic world begin to crumble.
It's the lycra-clad elite racer guy wheeling in his $13,000 S-Works bike vs. the commuter buying new tubes for his hand-me-down bike with the reflectors still in the spokes. It's the fact that race bikes are "cooler" than cargo bikes. It's the online forum arguments about whether or not cyclists should stop at stop signs. It's the 28-year old latecomer who feels out of place in a bike shop trying to buy his first bike and not having a clue what questions to ask and feeling judged by the elitist cyclists with deep-section carbon fiber aero wheels. It's the Strava warrior who is incensed that someone on an e-bike stole their KOM or QOM. Helmets vs no helmets. Speed limits on bike paths. Mismatched talent levels on group rides. Three, four, six, ten abreast group rides. Crossing yellow lines. On and on.
I can feel the heat rising, and to be honest that's kind of my point. If any of those descriptions filled you with rage or struck a nerve, it's further proving my point. Cycling is a divided sport. I've listened to countless podcasts, read articles, followed social media accounts dedicated to furthering these factions within our community, and that really makes me sad.
Cycling changed my life. It was the catalyst I needed to make positive changes, yet almost daily I see how this community is just as broken as the rest of the world.
So what's the point? Yeah, the world is messed up and so is cycling. Big deal. I'm still going to keep riding my bike and so are you. But what if we actually addressed this issue? What if a group of human beings chose to set aside their prejudices, hot button issues, offended-natures, took off the rose-tinted lenses, and took a real look across the aisle? What if we prioritized an attitude of loving progressiveness and worked to gain insight into the opposing point of view? What if the end goal of getting more people on bikes was more important than proving our point?
There is nothing wrong with having passionate points of view on issues. If no one ever fought for what they believed in, slavery would still be legal and women wouldn't be able to vote. I'm not suggesting that you should abandon your convictions, I'm suggesting that in a world dominated by division and hatred, maybe it would benefit all of us to adopt a new conviction: loving each other.
That's the whole reason I started MHCC; to spread love and inclusion, to see more people fall in love with riding bikes, to give a voice to those who feel unseen and unheard, to make cycling more accessible to people who see it as a closed society.
Maybe it's an unrealistic or idealistic idea that will never translate into the real world, but I choose to believe that there is greater good in this cycling community and in the world as a whole. The good news is that it doesn't have to be a legislative undertaking or a highly-visible movement. It's a grass-roots change in mindset. It's acknowledging that everyone who takes to two wheels and hits the road is equal. It's treating everyone in your local bike shop the same. It's taking a break from being a keyboard warrior and having an honest conversation with someone who fights for different things than you do and just maybe finding a shred of common ground between the two of you. It's closing the gap instead of widening the divide.
These are the kinds of changes that trickle up. Don't worry about what other people are doing. Just ride your bike and accept everyone else who's riding a bike. It's not that hard.
Anywhere is home. Just ride bikes.