Friday, August 19

What a Difference a Word Makes

I have admired the British cycling organizations for quite some time. Much more than their US counterpart, they seem to have focused on cyclist rights and safety without some of the lefty "PC" stuff and without the irritating road instructiin approach adopted by their US counterparts. The contrast between "Cyclecraft" and "Effective Cycling" is difficult to miss. Personally, I believe honey catches more flies than vinegar.

Regardless, I was shocked today to read in a BBC headline that British cyclists needed to become more "aggressive." The link is here. It was made worse when I found the statement in a quote from the Welsh cycling president. Pit Bull dogs have an aggressive reputation. Cyclists that flip motorists off while running a red light are aggressive. Hitler was aggressive. Cyclists that cut close to little old lady pedestrians are aggressive. Some cancers are aggressive.

Had the chosen word been "assertive," I'd have been nodding and saying to myself that maybe there ARE some sensible cycling advocates left in the world. I'd even have let pass his comment about cyclists needing to ride "in the middle of the road" rather than "in the middle of their lane."

As it was, he leveled the field with some of his US counterparts and that is not a good thing. One good item: they interviewed a motoring association and they fully agreed that cyclists would be better off not to ride timidly. Making me proud, they even used the word "ASSERTIVE" instead of creating an image of a criminal cycling underground. Now those are MY motorists!

10 comments:

thomas said...

I definitely agree with you on the poor diction. The word "assertive" would have been a better choice.

Steve A said...

Thomas, however I would describe my own cycling, aggressive is not a word that would pop into my mind. Assertive - yes. Careful - yes but that could easily be misinterpreted. Deliberate and defensive - yes again, but those could also easily be misunderstood. Proactive - definitely but what does that mean to a person new to riding in traffic? On balance, I come back to the word the car people used - assertive.

Pondero said...

Pit Bull dogs, as a breed, are actually not inherently aggressive, but I get your overall point and agree.

Steve A said...

Pondero. You are precisely correct that Pit Bulls are often not aggressive, but as a breed they do have that reputation, leading people to try to make them more aggressive. So I changed the post. Labs, of course, are rarely aggressive. A British effort to train Labs as attack dogs failed miserably.

Steve A said...

Actually, Labs can be pretty aggressive when left alone in a room with a bag of kibble!

limom said...

Assertive.
I can dig that.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I went and read the linked article, and agree with you Steve, "assertive" would be a more effective direction. Cyclists getting aggressive with motorists is a losing strategy on every level.

Khal said...

Agree with Steve on both wording and interpretation. Aggressive has a bad ring no matter who is behind the wheel or handlebar. Assertive, predictable, cooperative, and confident work better for me.

Michael said...

Yes, assertive is a better term than aggressive for American use. But, I wonder if the British use of aggressive and assertive are the same as the American?

As for riding in the middle of the road, if I ride so far left that it pisses people off and I get pegged in the head with a flying Coke bottle, wouldn't that defeat the purpose?

Lately, when I hear someone coming up behind me a little too fast or too far to the right I've been introducing a little wobble in my ride. It seems to help keep cars at a safe distance.

Steve A said...

Michael raises a good point about the difference between the English and the American languages, but the motorist group seems to agree with us Yanks.

I don't ride in the middle of the road except immediately before executing a left turn. I do, however, typically ride at the right edge of the left tire track when riding in a lane that is 14' or less in width. I rarely get harassed. Perhaps the drivers in suburban North Texas are uncommonly courteous and patient. If I were ever passed as close as three feet, I'd blog about it, as it is less common than things like suddenly encountering a wrong-way motorist.

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