Know Your Enemy: In the cycling world, we all get why we do what we do. You know, riding a bicycle, staying healthy, being more responsible with our resources, and well, let's admit it- having fun.
Trouble is, we're like the Amish. We know why we do what we do, like the Amish know why they do not have electricity, but the rest of the world thinks we're odd, at best, and at worst, they think we're stupid.
I mean, look at me here (<==) This was taken last week when it was snowing on my commute to work by bicycle. If you are a cyclist, you understand, but we're a vast minority, and most people just do not get it. Like the other day, a family friend that knows me well told another friend of hers that I was out riding, in December, in the cold, while it was snowing. The guy thought he was being lied to. He told my friend, "No one rides a bicycle in this kind of weather!"
See what I mean?
Or how about this story published on "Cyclelicious" where a cyclist is harassed by two policemen, one of which is quoted as saying, ".....you shouldn’t be riding a bike in San Francisco. I don’t ride a bike here, it’s too dangerous!!” The story goes on to relate how the cyclist educated the police chief as to how and why she rode in the metro area, to help preserve her life. The police got educated. One small victory.
More Education: So, we just need to educate people better, right. Right. Absolutely correct. We need to start by realizing, like it or not, that most everyone that isn't a cyclist probably thinks we are freakish, weird, odd, possibly stupid, maybe insane, and that because of this, we don't know what is good for us. Maybe they think that we are so "out there", we can't be reached, so they may as well just treat cyclists like the idiots they are. We as cyclists need to be educated as to what the reality of our existence means out there on the roads.
Harsh? Unrealistic? Well, think about this: If a man walks into a pit full of alligators, willingly, and gets eaten alive, most of us are going to figure that this doofus had it coming, no? I mean, why would you think you could even do such a dumb thing and live, right? I believe this is exactly what most of non-cycling America thinks about cyclists on the roads and byways.
I don't mean to say that we as cyclists don't belong on the roads. I don't mean to say that what happens to cyclists at the hands of folks in automobiles is somehow excusable, or even remotely "right". I'm just saying this is probably the psychology of most non-cyclists out there. They don't understand the "why" of what we do. They have no basis for making a case for what we do as being sane, so they react to us in like manner, as if we were insane, and it goes down hill from there. To them, we are putting ourselves at unnecessary risk.
So, yes: the non-cyclist needs to be educated, but so do we. We need to understand that in many ways, we cyclists are "the enemy" in the minds of a lot of folks today. We need to accept that what we do isn't seen as something a normal person would do in society in the U.S. today, and hopefully we can change that perception for tomorrow. That will take some time.
Until then, we as cyclists should act accordingly.