Let me preface this by saying that I’m a fairly serious recreational cyclist, bike commuter and mountain biker. I clock 4000-5000 miles in an average year.
I also drive a car. Not often-- maybe 5000 miles in a good year. See, I’ve been bike commuting year round since freshman year of college and that was (checks notes) 21 years ago. I love it. And tonight I decided to do my friend a favor by and drive them to their 3rd shift job… and we got stopped by the WNBR on a narrow street.
Wasn’t a big problem at first. We had some “blockers” in front of us; I knew what they were doing and asked if we could pull into the parking strip; they refused to budge. OK, fine, we’ll stay put. But I felt like the blockers were trying to “make an example” of us. Sigh…
We sat there for 20 minutes cheering, hi-fiving and encouraging the riders. We were smiling and having a good time. A lot of cyclists said thanks, and cheered back. But more than a few didn’t. And it’s the toxic comments that really made me angry and inspired me to post this:
“WHERE ARE YOUR TITS?!”
“SHOW US YOUR TITS!”
“YOU’RE LITERALLY RUINING THIS RIDE”
“GO BACK TO GRESHAM”
“FUCK YOUR CAR”
and so on. Probably 10-15 completely un-provoked comments shouted as I was sitting there, unable to get my vehicle out of the road. If the blockers had allowed me to pull off the road, if they published a route? Well, I would have steered clear. No sweat. Instead I was railroaded into a group of sometimes-angry and aggressive people and it was hard not to feel like they were looking for a target.
Frankly, I feel hurt. I’ve never been a part of the “bike activist” community but I follow it on social media, bikeportland, etc. I’ve yelled at my share of drivers when they do dangerous stuff or threaten me. But I received this aggression tonight for the sin of, gee, I don’t know… being in the wrong place at the wrong time? It’s depressing to feel bias first-hand, and also to get a glimpse of reality: those who claim to be helping are just as eager to actually do the opposite.
I can’t help but imagine that many other people were targets of the same words tonight; most of those folks probably don’t have as strong a connection to bicycling as I do. And I cringe, thinking about the damage caused. If someone like me feels this way then it’s not hard to say it: WNBR is toxic.