Dame Sarah Storey, Britain’s greatest ever Paralympian, and the new Active Travel Commissioner for Sheffield has said we need a new word to distinguish between racing cyclists and utility cyclists because of the level of hostility towards “cyclists”.
Dame Sarah’s comments come a week after the publication of an Australian study claiming that more than half of drivers don’t view people on bikes as being completely human.
“We need to realise that a cyclist isn’t just a Lycra-clad yob, as per the stereotype, and that cyclists are just people on bikes moving around on a mode of transport.” Dame Sarah, told The Guardian.
She said that the English language should follow the Dutch example and have a separate word for people who ride a bike as a form of transport. In the Netherlands such a person is called a fietser while someone riding a bike for sport is a wielrenner.
Dame Sarah also argued for better driver education: “People have this massive problem with two people on a bike riding next to each other.
"Yet if they are driving a car with someone else, that person is generally sat next to them and they are having a nice little chat - they are not insisting that the passenger sit behind them.
"So why would someone riding a bike be required to sit in single file and not talk?”
The author’s of the Australian study we reported on last week wanted to do away with the word cyclist altogether. Co-author of the study, Professor Narelle Haworth said: "Let's talk about people who ride bikes rather than cyclists because that's the first step towards getting rid of this dehumanisation.”
Changing the way people use language though is a tricky thing as Dame Sarah’s suggestion of following the Dutch model illustrates. The literal english translation of fietser is bicyclist or cyclist – it’s the alternative word, we’ll take a wild stab and say the literal translation would be wheelrunner that applies to sporting cyclists.
Given that a large number of UK commuters are also lycra-clad and ride drop barred bikes how either of the Dutch words could be used to distinguish between these two types of cyclists is up for discussion.
What do you think cyclists in the UK should be called? Let us know in the comments below.