I mentioned something a while back on another blog (might have been "At War with the Motorist") about feeling, just occasionally, that as an existing utility cyclist, I was viewed as "the enemy" by some advocates. And by utility cyclist, I mean someone who uses a bike to travel to places where I have things to do, as opposed to (purely) for the fun of it, and who wears cycling gear for longer rides.
I don't mean to single him out, but this post (at the excellent 42 Bikes) is a case in point;
I have just witnessed a classic way of making cycling appear unattractive to – well to anyone really.
The trick is to arrive at a busy Costa in a nice town on a cool but otherwise pleasant Saturday afternoon wearing lycra padded shorts, a muddy waterproof jacket and of course your cycling helmet on. To complete the image make sure that you are alone and that your legs are as unattractive as possible.
All those people wearing comfortable clothes and enjoying each others company will look at you and wish they had come shopping by bike – not!
We've no way of knowing what the object of the blogger's ire had been up to - he/she might have been in the saddle for hours, treating him/herself after a hard training ride, or fortifying ahead of one. Hell, he/she might just find bike kit more comfortable for riding around in. Does he/she somehow have a responsibility to sacrifice his/her comfort and enjoyment for some nebulous greater good, I wonder?
As a frequently linked post by Dave Moulton points out, there are good reasons to wear modern bike gear - and for some things, it's difficult to argue that anything else is better. The argument that people "wore regular clothes for long journeys in the past" is a flawed one - "racing" gear then was expensive, and difficult to care for, making less practical (in this sense) alternatives essential.
I can recall other campaigners on the "hard" end of the utility advocacy side chuckling at cafés that refused to serve people in bike gear, and it's from this sort of post that my unease stems, because I can't help thinking that being on a bike *at all* is worth something over here.
I'm uncomfortably reminded of the "That Was the Week that Was" sketch;
Roadie: "I look down on him", (looks snootily at utility cyclist), "because his bike weighs more than mine."
Utility Cyclist: "I look down on him" , (looks snootily at roadie), because he wears cycling gear."
And some drivers don't look *at all*, as my scars testify - if you want to be angry at anything, I'd suggest that's a better target than other cyclists.
All of which is just a re-write of this, really. But there you go.
(By way of recompense to 42 Bikes, whose blog I like, I should point out that I'd not have read this Sheffield University presentation without him, it's very interesting. I also very much enjoy his cargo bike tales, which feature a Larry vs Harry Bullitt).