I have two big fears. Salad cream and confrontation (I’ve never shared that before because I realise it could cause an argument). This means that I often lack clout when it comes to conversational tennis matches with friends and colleagues. Especially when trying to convince them of the truth in one statement. A statement that I am more convinced about than anything, and a statement my friends see as an uninformed slogan of a naive dreamer. “Everyday cycling can save the world”.
Jump into my world of deflated enthusiasm
Don’t get me wrong, my friends (people I tolerate) are great people. They are kind, switched on, and compassionate. But we don’t always agree when it comes to the dreaded topic of bicycles. As you may have guessed, I love bicycles. I am a strong believer in the power of the bike. It has the ability to transform the world into a healthier, happier, and more human-friendly place. This passion has been consistently stoked through years of reading and probing into the nuanced, if not popular, the world of facts and figures. Whereas my friends (foes) often see it as a hobby for adventurous simpletons (take my business card), a public nuisance, and something that doesn’t deserve the focus of considered discussion. Therefore, their chosen word weapons to destroy my arguments are normally pithy comments and dismissive put-downs that immediately pop my bike shaped virtuosity balloon. I do not hang out on the set of Top Gear, but it does sometimes feel like it.
I see my approach as more thoughtful. And more better-er. An approach of sharing carefully crafted thoughts, trying to fill them with credentials, and hoping that friends (enemies) take these on board as well-rounded and informed views. The problem lies here though. Due to my fear of confrontation, if I adopt this approach and a dismissive and pithy chat backhand is sliced my way, I will let it go and the debate will end with me feeling deflated. If my friends took the power of cycling, and the endless research behind it, more seriously there would be no need for any of these missed opportunities or tennis analogies.
On balance, I am still correct
I appreciate the potential pomposity of this argument and have whittled over my opinion for years. I’m just as open to confirmation bias as my friends are. The more I become sure of my bike-loving opinion, the more information ivory I find to build up my tower. However, I would dare to go as far as saying that this opinion is formed through a variety of sources and information, and objectively correct (of course I would say that). If my eternal foes (aka friends) presented an alternative with as many credentials, I would happily accept it (then throw up on the floor, questions my entire purpose, and jump in a paradox pit/lake). But they haven’t, so na naa na na naaa.
The argument against cycling — an idiot’s guide to being an idiot
Time for some examples of my friends (nemeses) tabloid headline-esque rhetoric. Usual culprits include “Cycling is a pathetic hobby for child humans, it’s not a way to cut 5.3 million preventable deaths a year, you’re being irresponsible. Grow up and get a car”, “Cycling is dangerous and bad for you. Sitting down for hours at a time in a car is safer and if you care about your health you should drive one, you idiot”, “How can cycling be good for our economy and drastically improve success of small business, what about those cyclists who run red lights and punch babies?”. Slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect but you get the point. They are recycled un-informed hot takes that oversimplify cycling’s place in society and health promotion.
The most recent example of this was talking to my friend (sworn enemy) ‘Generic Name 1’. Conversation organically shifted (I didn’t even have to manipulate the topic into a potential bike chat zone) onto our nation’s health. As mentioned before, my friends (people I can’t stand being around in any way at any time) are lovely people who care about helping others and ‘Generic Name 1’ is no different. Therefore the chat naturally went down the line of finding solutions. Over the last few months I had been researching studies on the massive negative effects of inactivity on public health and how an active lifestyle can be enabled through a human-friendly design of towns and cities (more places for accessible walking and cycling). I approached the argument in an amiable and respectful way, dropped some facts and figures, and explained the extent to which these factors have been proven. A thoughtful response wrapped in a smug little bow.
All of this preparation was undone with a pithy cookie cutter response. “If cycling is so good for our health, why did someone whizz past me on the pavement last week”. He was chuffed with his argument. Triumphant. Acting like he’d won an international fancy dress competition for his impression of Abraham Lincoln. Where in fact, in his delusional state, he had just confidently covered his chin in shaving foam and put a wasp’s nest on his head and finished second to last. Idiot (friend).
I knew this approach wouldn’t be taken with conversations about other forms of health promotion or disease prevention measures. I looked at the floor, took a deep breath and said Copenhagen ten times.
How you can learn to stop worrying and love the bicycle
At this point in the article, I would typically present my counter-argument to address the issue above (my friend’s ignorant dismissal of cycling). Try to pull together evidence, reframe it for wider audiences, win hearts and minds through laboured points about the endless benefits of cycling for every kind of person. But, after the experiences I’ve already detailed, I’m trying a different approach. This article is a call to my friends (‘the problem’),and whoever may read this, to give wheels a chance. When cycling comes up in conversation, when you see it on the news, or in when you read about it in your social media feed, I urge you to approach this argument like you would with other topics. Be open-minded and do your research. Listen to the outcomes of studies. Appreciate the nuance and search for a quick answer. Act less like the human embodiment of a Good Morning Britain phone in.
Most importantly though. Dear readers and friends (brainwashed tabloid parrots without a soul). In spite of the passive-aggressive nature of this article, which was 100% directed at you and all that you believe in. Even though I have called you an ignorant idiot numerous times. Considering the fact that I have revealed that I constantly judge you throughout all of our conversations. I hope you will accept that I am objectively correct and all-knowing, but I above all else, I hope you will still be my friends.