Let's ban the word "cyclist"

by SteppenHerring   July 19, 2014  

I've seen other people make a similar complaint and it does make sense.

The word "cyclist" seems to have become poisonous. How so? Consider the following news story headlines:

Cyclist killed in collision with lorry
Cyclist sought in connection with death of pedestrian
Cyclist rapes kitten standing in Diana memorial fountain

Even pro riders spend the majority or their lives not riding a bicycle. We are people who ride bicycles - we're not some separate sub-species. I drive a car but when some joyriding teenager ploughs into a bus shelter full of pensioners and babies in prams nobody tries to make me feel as though I'm to blame for that. But when a "normal person" sees somebody on a bicycle charging across a zebra crossing or riding aggressively on the pavement or wearing a Lampré top with AG2R shorts then, for some reason, that's my problem. I'm sick of it.

Stick a person with the label "cyclist" and it seems they become fair game. Knocked down, injured killed - probably their fault. They were probably riding on the pavement or thinking about kitten rape.

There is no such thing as a "cyclist" - just people who may use a bicycle to go from one place to another place (which may sell cake). Sure there are people who do antisocial things on bicycles (not nearly as many as those who do antisocial things in cars) but that is Not My Problem. All we have in common is a mode of transport. I've driven a van before - just like Peter Sutcliffe - but I'm not like him. I don't have a moustache.

Sorry - scheduled to be wet tomorrow so beer/late.

21 user comments

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I can't find the kitten story anywhere... Confused

Him Up North's picture

posted by Him Up North [236 posts]
19th July 2014 - 10:04

8 Likes

I remember my first beer too...

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [501 posts]
19th July 2014 - 12:54

5 Likes

It's a valid concern. I think banning it outright is a few steps too far, but I would like to see there being regulations, or at least conscious effort put into how it is used.

I remember seeing a BBC News mini-report on a guy who had been cycling on Oxford/Regent Street in London and had a collision with a bus. We was bed-bound in hospital at the time of his interview, yet he was introduced in his text panel as "[Main Line]:Bart Chan [Subline]: Cyclist". At the time of interview, he was not a "cyclist" he could not be further from riding a bicycle. Yet for some reason, the fact we was riding a bicycle at the time of injury endowed him with the permanent title of being a "cyclist". He would have been "crash victim", he could have been "person lying in a bed in hospital", he could have been anything else, and it may have actually been an accurate portrayal of who he was. But at that point in time, he was not a bloody "cyclist".

I'm happy for the term to be used to describe anyone who makes their living from cyclesport (although I would prefer the term "professional/pro-cyclist"), but outside of that it should describe someone who is currently riding a bicycle, and be used in that context. In the same way I am happy to be described as a 'pedestrian' when I'm out walking in town, but I do not identify as a 'pedestrian' as I write this message. Or in pretty much any other context.

There should be guidelines as to how it's used in the press, as it's become a buzzword and a way of inflaming people. It's current 'openness to interpretation' leaves in vulnerable to being used pejoratively, which in turn toxifies the word outright and makes it hard to discuss in contexts where it would be appropriate.

posted by Quince [201 posts]
19th July 2014 - 13:21

1 Like

Agreed. I frequently correct my colleagues at work similarly when they tell me what 'a cyclist' did to them this morning (generally: complained at being stepped out in front of).

Kittens in Lycra?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [948 posts]
19th July 2014 - 13:51

2 Likes

You conjure up some perverse imagery; Lampre top with AG2R shorts.

A bike most definitely is not just a means of going from A to B. If that were true why then does it take me 9.3km to get to work in the morning but sometimes 20 or 40km to get back? I am cyclist and proud (guess that explains the rainbow jersey.)

If anyone else wants to come out as a Cyclist please say so below.



I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1424 posts]
19th July 2014 - 14:13

4 Likes

This has reminded of an exchange I had with a black mate of mine a few years ago.

I told him as a joke that I became interested in cycling, because as a straight white middle class male, it seemed the easiest way to find out what it was like to be part of a minority in London.

Later the same day he showed me his newspaper, and was laughing because the story referred to "the cycling community".

posted by bikebot [787 posts]
19th July 2014 - 14:34

5 Likes

Let's ban banning.

posted by HalfWheeler [125 posts]
19th July 2014 - 15:30

1 Like

HalfWheeler wrote:
Let's ban banning.

Can we start with banning the ban on setting fire to parked cars?

Or is it just the banning of words you mean? In which case you miss the point that this wasn't a demand for a literal ban enforced by legal sanctions. Either way your comment makes no sense.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [744 posts]
19th July 2014 - 16:33

1 Like

bikeboy76 wrote:

A bike most definitely is not just a means of going from A to B. If that were true why then does it take me 9.3km to get to work in the morning but sometimes 20 or 40km to get back? I am cyclist and proud (guess that explains the rainbow jersey.)

If anyone else wants to come out as a Cyclist please say so below.

I'm with you on this, so will step out of the closet too!

I can perhaps understand in a scenario where someone cycles *only* for utility purposes that they may not want to be defined solely by their mode of transport, but I cycle more for the fun of it than I do purely as a means of getting from A to B. In that regard, I'm quite happy to be labelled as a cyclist in the same way as someone who plays golf of a weekend would (want to) be called a golfer.

Besides, I believe the term "driver" is just as likely to be used in the OP's suggested headlines, were that the case in the articles concerned (ok, maybe not the kitten rape bit -the Daily Mail would have a field day with that!).

posted by parksey [294 posts]
19th July 2014 - 17:32

1 Like

I quit being a cyclist ages ago, nowadays I just ride bikes a hell of a lot. I don't drive, I have a massive cargo bike in my fleet which I take the kids around in, I am a pro bike mechanic and known locally as the Bicycle Guy, I even take part in cycle activism, but I do not label myself as a cyclist, I don't want to identify myself with such a group because I am just a regular guy who rides bikes and just as many cyclists are nobheads as other folk (>80% in my estimation).

posted by drfabulous0 [403 posts]
19th July 2014 - 18:15

3 Likes

Language is organic (i.e. characterised by gradual or natural development). You might personally *want* certain rules or standards to be maintained but you have very little chance of being successful. That's why we have the ghastly "10 items or less" signs in Tesco but thankfully in Waitrose it still says "10 items or fewer" ... at least for now. The difference in meanings between 'less' and 'fewer' is gradually being eroded and that is a shame.

posted by Joeinpoole [308 posts]
19th July 2014 - 18:17

2 Likes

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
HalfWheeler wrote:
Let's ban banning.

Can we start with banning the ban on setting fire to parked cars?

Or is it just the banning of words you mean? In which case you miss the point that this wasn't a demand for a literal ban enforced by legal sanctions. Either way your comment makes no sense.

No, it's the rather curious British notion of expressing dislike for something (either physical or philosophic) by advocating that it should be banned. 'Don't like it; outlaw it, get rid of it'.

For example many drivers despise cyclists (this much is obvious), their reaction on some websites I've seen: 'ban cycling on the roads'. And there are many other ludicrous examples.

So yes, to ban banning is meant to be a little nonsensical, ironic even. But if you think in straight lines it might not be immediately obvious.

posted by HalfWheeler [125 posts]
20th July 2014 - 13:58

0 Likes

posted by ajd [25 posts]
20th July 2014 - 20:51

0 Likes

Sorry mate, Tesco is correct with "10 items or less."
Check Wikipedia for an authoritative rule.
Hypercorrectivity is easily cured - by lightening up.
Nerd

posted by ajd [25 posts]
20th July 2014 - 20:53

1 Like

You can easily have a pop at ***-ists. Racists, terrorists, extremists, jihadists, marxists, communists, cyclists. If you're an -ist you have already become a sub-species. You can't ban people calling other people xyz-ists but you can ask them - are you on the slippery slope to bigotry?

Also, cyclist, like motorist, sounds a bit French n'est pas? Perhaps that is why people can spit it out with venom. Pah! (spit) Cycliste!

On the other hand, you could call yourself a rider. Now this sounds a lot sportier and less French. Nerd

posted by drjohn [1 posts]
20th July 2014 - 22:56

1 Like

Hmm..

I think I know what the OP is getting at but banning words is obviously a fruitless exercise.

I think the word cyclist is often used in press reports where their method of transport is pertinent to the story. That is appropriate.

Now if they say 'cyclist rapes kitten in front of Diana memorial', or, perhaps more probably stereotyping such as 'cyclists are lycra louts who go through red lights' then that's where you start having problems.

No amount of banning of words will work - it is not a productive use of time and misses the point that it is not the language itself but the use of that language which is the problem -

If that language tries to discriminate unfairly, is prejudicial or attempts to incite some public anger against a 'group', then that should be stopped. Mainly because there is a real danger from idiots who buy in to the anti cyclist agenda.

Some parts of the media (DM etc) stoop to this uninformed, lazy journalism to pedal their 'anti-cycling' agenda. They like to pitch motorist against cyclist as though they are different people and are destined to be at odds with each other. Sadly, a few cyclists have this mentality -though the consequences for the other group are potentially far less grave when this happens so less of an issue, more of an irritation when I see it on here..

Are 'we' a group? Do 'we' want to be? cyclists are probably not even a minority -lots of people own bikes - 'we' do not want to be lumped together for the purposes of being the subject of DM outrage and prejudice. But perhaps there are some benefits, where being a 'community' or group is helpful.. Lobbying the government on safety, promoting cycling activities and events, getting better facilities locally etc. for these purposes I'm more than happy to be branded a 'cyclist'!

posted by 700c [587 posts]
21st July 2014 - 15:28

3 Likes

Ok, lets ban the word cyclist, we merely ride bicycles, we become one of thousands of people who ride bicycles. Once involved with anything beyond the norm we will become a new species, 'bicyclists'. Wink Wink

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1013 posts]
21st July 2014 - 16:28

1 Like

antonio wrote:
Ok, lets ban the word cyclist, we merely ride bicycles, we become one of thousands of people who ride bicycles. Once involved with anything beyond the norm we will become a new species, 'bicyclists'. Wink Wink

I'll have you know I've never been 'confused' and I'm happily married. Wink

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [948 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 11:21

0 Likes

If you take the word cyclist from us, the term MAMIL's will really take off

posted by Scoob_84 [230 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 15:41

0 Likes

I kind of agree, but not quite; partly because after a couple of days thinking about it, I believe I am a cyclist. I cycle by choice where I can instead of walking or driving. I have a range of bikes to fit different modes of cycling. I suffer from serious bike envy; I'm permanently shopping for the next model; if I see another cyclist by the side of the road I could probably give a fairly detailed description of the bike and accessories but not be able to tell you anything about the person riding it. I could name a range of professional bike riders but hardly any other sports people in any activity. I commute, sportive and tri, I watch Grand Tours, I read bike websites.

Offset against this, two things. I used to ride a motorbike (before I could afford a car) and never ever either described myself or thought of myself as a 'biker'. I was simply a person whose mode of transport was motorised, two wheels. I didn't know anything about motorbikes, didn't watch motorbike racing, didn't care about them; it was simply transport. Zip forward twenty years and I'm doing triathlon. But again, I would never, ever, describe myself as a a 'triathlete'. I'm simply a cyclist that can run and swim a bit who likes to make up the main field in amateur events and make the winners look good.

I guess that's the difference and I admit it here (in the language of cycling of course): Je suis une cycliste.

posted by RuthF28 [94 posts]
25th July 2014 - 21:26

1 Like

How about "Suspect spotted on a bike"?

Joeinpoole wrote:
...we have the ghastly "10 items or less" signs in Tesco but thankfully in Waitrose it still says "10 items or fewer"

So that's why Waitrose costs more...

The Motivated Grammarian linked to upthread ("Please stop complaining about this") is brilliant, thanks for posting that.

~ @jollygoodthen

posted by Sam Walker [71 posts]
26th July 2014 - 6:56

1 Like