Inspired by my brave friends from this is thin privilege, I decided to start answering some tough questions about bicyclist privilege. http://thisisthinprivilege.tumblr.com/faq#thinally
“How can I be a good bicyclist ally?”
I’m not sure how to tell a bicyclist ally how to be an ally. Everything’s so personal, and it depends on who you’re with and how comfortable they are with their modes of transportation, whether you’ve come out as movement activist to them or not, what your personality is, the context of the conversation, etc.
But maybe a few of the following tips might be useful:
- Be incredibly sensitive and cater to our emotional needs. Most pedestrian-Americans are used to getting either criticism or embarrassed silence when the bike topic is broached. Be clear that it’s no big deal to you, that ways of getting around are just descriptors. If the pedestrian-American wants to explore that concept further, then be really mindful of not pushing too hard. Pedestrian-Americans are imposed upon by bicyclists all the time, and it can make us pretty sensitive to it, even when a bicyclist is talking walking positivity. Let the pedestrian-American carry the conversation, and drop it right away if they seem uncomfortable. After all, we are super special people who deserve to have you walk on eggshells around us since we’ve chosen a different lifestyle. If you say anything that makes us feel anything but happy, you’re oppressing us.
- Don’t treat any of your automobile-American friends differently than your bicyclist friends. If going shopping, make sure it’s somewhere that accommodates everyone, or in a mall that has stores for them, and don’t always go to their store last. Be mindful of restaurant and movie theater parking. If they need someone to be there for moral support when they go ask about valet parking or to get a parking space close to the entrance, that’s great, but don’t be their voice unless you know they want you to speak up for them. You should literally alter your entire lifestyle to accommodate us.
- Street harassment: I personally would love a bicyclist ally joining my screams of wrath at someone who harasses me on the street. Tag-teaming verbally abusive strangers is the best, especially since they tend to be cowards that back down when more than one person fights back. If you’re truly dedicated to social justice, you ought to pull out a knife and cut them. Anyone who makes any sort of negative comment about someone else should be screamed at and stabbed.
- If you get a tough question like, “Does this new car have bad gas mileage?” it’s okay to show your activist colors! Reply with something like, “What’s wrong with 10 miles to the gallon!?!?” or “No, not that there’s anything wrong with driving a hummer to school.” Sometimes it’s the little things that count.
- Feel free to get angry and speak up against pedestrian-American discrimination and carophobia in the media, walkphobic campaigns in your school/city/state/country, anything that’s bigger than the individual. That’s where I think allies can really shine, as long as you’re always mindful to not speak for fat people, but in support of them. Remember, there is seriously a conspiracy out there with the sole intent of oppressing us.
- Being an ally isn’t always easy. Use ‘sorry’ copiously and in a meaningful way if someone gets offended, even if you don’t understand why they’re offended or didn’t intend to offend them. That’s how more important our feelings are than yours. I don’t know any pedestrian-American activists who would shun a bicyclist ally for saying something ignorant once then apologizing and never doing it again. Pedestrian-Americans are people too, and we’re angry at bicyclist privilege, not bicyclist people (though we’re definitely angry at ignorant bicyclist privileged people, especially if they’re hateful abusive bigots on top of all that). Our main fight is against transportation discrimination and oppression, not with allies who are mindful and careful and in earnest.In other words, make sure you’re “one of the good ones” by seeing yourselves as having less important feelings.
- To summarize, in order to not be oppressive, you need to value us above yourself, walk on eggshells when speaking to us, alter your entire lifestyle to accommodate us, and behave violently toward anyone who disagrees with us. You know, equality.