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It’s our Sport: Do you put your best pedal forward for cycling the brand?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 9:49 am

At the base of a busy mountain road just outside Vancouver BC, eight cyclists stood casually straddling their bicycles in the middle of a busy traffic lane. The exciting road offers a steep winding ascent with beautiful panoramic views of the city below, and, if you choose, a blazing descent back down to the city. It is a popular mountain for riding, driving and sightseeing, and the road often experiences a steady stream of traffic. But here were eight riders holding their position in the middle of the road, oblivious to the frustrations they caused around them.

Facing each other in a haphazard circle they were deep in the thralls of jovial conversation. Drivers continued to pull up and shoot fierce stares at the cyclists as they stood, blocking traffic only feet from a parking lot on one side and a quiet side road on the other. New riders sauntered up to the group and the circle expanded, taking up more of the road.

A line of formed behind the riders and the visibly angry drivers were making hurried and abrupt hand movements, a couple let out a brief honks that tore through the conversation, ending  in a second of silence. A couple of riders slowly turned their heads and looked uninterestedly at the noisy drivers and then went back to their conversation. Watching this you couldn’t help but shake your head; these are the riders that give cycling a bad name and fuel the fires against our great sport.

Cycling is after all is a brand, and as we push for more support and greater involvement from individuals and communities alike every impression we make counts.  On this day the people passing the pack of riders left, no doubt, with a sour taste in their mouth about cyclists. Their actions followed the old adage of ‘a few bad apples.’ This was an isolated incident but similar iterations occur daily and stress the already shaky relationship between riders and drivers.  There is no shortage of stories where an angry driver takes their frustrations out on a cyclist; in the game of bike against car the car will always win.

Every interaction between riders and non riders, every exposure and experience will influence perceptions of our sport and the people involved.  Whether leave with a positive or negative impression is up to individuals and how they decide to act. Sometimes, common courtesy or the lack of it can speak louder than you think. On that exceptional fall morning all the riders had to do was move a few feet off the main road and they would have avoided the many negative impressions their actions created. It’s our brand and it’s our job to help people love it -not hate it.

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