I was reading an article a few days back about Cambridge, a questionnaire for the various political parties on their views in relation to cycling. There was was one particular person, the persons answers got me thinking as this individual did not have a clear understanding of cyclists and seemed to believe the general ignorance.
If you read the news cyclists are often the people around town running over pedestrians and getting in the way of cars, lets not forget getting knocked off. Granted this blame culture has existed for as long as I have been riding, which is longer than some people have been driving now.
I think that the social outlook on cycling has to change for any real change in how people view cycling so that the general ignorance can change and be replaced by facts. When people ask what I do on the weekend (or any other moment I can) I do not say I go cycling, in my mind that is something different. I am a mountain biker, when you say that, there is a little look where you can see they are thinking of it and work out I obviously mean something other than cycling. I explain I go off road then it dawns on them that I mean riding on a dirt road or something similar but I often go into more detail for them to realize what it is.
I do not mean to say that everyone have no understanding, I just merely hope to highlight that people base it on their own experience and the term 'its as easy as riding a bike' highlights this as most people will ride a bike at an early age and that is what society ingrains in our minds as to what cycling is.
The truth of the matter is cycling has developed a great deal in recent years creating different disciplines and areas which of course requires different skills. As I ride XC/DH I am aware of the capabilities of the bike i ride and myself for that matter and may be able to maneuver a bike better than the typical commuter for example but I am viewed like every other commuter, although in some instances my ability to throw a bike around spared me unpleasant interactions with cars. Of course I realize while typing this that I am used and brush of the dangers of riding on roads with how I have experienced drivers to be as 'normal'. The question becomes having this normality we may begin to believe that there is nothing broken, this is just how it is.
I read another article recently regarding dutch style roundabouts in London but the main item that struck me was change is being considered for dangerous roundabouts where numbers of cyclists have died and I think that really sums it up. Change occurs when people are killed but between motorized transport and cyclists the cyclists are far more at risk of being killed than drivers.
As I do not drive I can only speculate, but I can highlight an observation. Drivers who are cyclists make better drivers when it comes to noticing cyclists and giving them consideration on the road, perhaps having experience of being in that vulnerable position alters their perception when driving.
Well my thoughts, soap box stand down.....:)