If you’re driving a car, you hate pedestrians. If you’re walking, you hate people in cars.
But everyone hates people on bikes (except cyclists, of course).
I can’t remember who first pointed out that universal law to me, nor how many times I’ve repeated to others, but the truth behind it has always felt so obvious.
Now there’s a logical explanation.
In a recent article for The New Yorker, author Maria Konnikova deconstructs the mysterious three-pronged war that’s waged in cities between people using different modes of transportation.
Why, she asks, should people feel such visceral rage toward other commuters simply because of how many wheels they use to get to work?
The explanation may be rooted more in urban design than anything else.
Cities were built for cars — carriages, really — which meant roads became the central and supreme avenue for getting around. While walking remained a humble natural act, driving became an act of status.
For Konnikova, this is crucial.
Walking has “precedence.” It is the original bipedal form of moving your body from one place to another. People respect walking because, as Konnikova explains, there’s a sense of “I got here first.”
Driving, meanwhile, has power. Cars are high-velocity death machines if they aren’t handled properly. People get out of your way if you’re in a car. That’s respect.
But biking has neither of those qualities. Even a quick shove from a pedestrian can send a bicyclist to the pavement.
All bikes have is environmental friendliness, which is undeniably important. But in the heat of the moment, when you’re blazing through green lights on the way to work, and a bike cuts you off, the machine’s small carbon footprint isn’t even an afterthought. You just want the person gone.
“Walking is a human ability; driving is an urban right,” Konnikova writes. “Bicycling is neither.”
Don’t tell that to people in Copenhagen, however.
In Denmark, cycling has precedence and the power. Bike lanes are cleared before roadways when it snows, and traffic lights coordinate with bicyclists to stay green for them, but not drivers.
Without the unbridled rage for cyclists, no wonder Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.
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