According to Wikipedia, ‘a persecution complex is a term within psychological discourse afforded to an array of complex behaviours that specifically deal with the perception of being persecuted for various possible reasons, imagined or real’.
It is very easy for British cyclists to feel persecuted; on the road, cyclists can get direct physical abuse from motorists who just don’t know or just don’t care. These are very rare occurrences but can be enough to put someone off cycling for life. For others, there’s a constant perceived threat simply from the high volume of traffic speeding past them, often in very close proximity which can be regarded as unpleasant at best. When we decide to use specially designed ‘facilities’, we can’t help but wonder what on Earth we did to annoy the local Council to deserve such dangerous rubbish.
For many cyclists, the only contact they have with opinions from non-cyclists is through the internet. If you decide to write a blog about your cycling experiences then congratulations! How wonderful that cycling has compelled you to get your feelings down in pixels. The problem is that internet forums and blog posts can attract the more ‘passionate’ viewpoints and arguments to the extent that a cyclist can feel quite persecuted and hopeless in the face of what may be perceived as ignorance or prejudice. Sometimes you will attract special interest groups or people simply looking for an argument. However, everyone is entitled to their view and learning the opinions and ideologies of others merely enriches the life experience. Even if they’re utterly moronic.
Another common battlefield is the local press. Cyclists can feel persecuted and powerless in the wake of people writing in to moan about an example of reckless cycling on a pavement or how cyclists should ‘pay their way’. Maybe they had a bad experience to provoke the letter in the first place.
Never lose sight of the bigger picture; the vast majority of the Great British public is utterly unaware of what’s going on in the cycling World and even less so on the internet or even the local press. It’s not that the British public is hostile to cycling & cyclists. They’ve simply forgotten the fun they once had and how simple and effective this mode of conveyance can be.
I still get incredibly heartened when members of the public attend local cycle meetings & forums or approach me when I assist at events such as Sustrans ‘In Town Without My Car Day’. They ask questions that might invite snorts of derision from more seasoned cyclists, but why should they know? Successive Governments and a relentless motoring lobby have pushed the simple pleasures like riding a bicycle from run-of-the-mill to not-on-your-life. It’s seen as something that doesn’t fit a lot of lifestyle choices (unless it’s bolted to the floor in a gym).
British cycling groups such as CTC are still trying to get over the massive shock of losing a generation to the motor car. They put on a brave face and act as though cycling will somehow muddle through in the ever changing car-centric landscape. It will survive of course but is that what we really want when we are, after all, part of the solution? This is the main area of perceived persecution for cyclists; the feeling that cyclists are being designed off the roads and not being taken seriously at national Government level by being pushed at arms length to the provinces. It is up to organisations such as CTC to not lose sight of that bigger picture and keep pushing National Government for cycling to be placed firmly on the sustainable transport agenda.
What has been rewarding, particularly where I do a lot of campaigning in Worthing, is the positive response from the public and the town council to campaigns such as opening up the promenade for cycling and the push for 20mph zones across the town. People like the idea of wide traffic free routes encouraging family cycling and safer streets across the town. There’s no reason why this cannot be delivered in towns and cities across the land through a combination redesigned streetscapes, reduced speed limits in residential areas and segregated cycling routes taking space from the motor car as opposed to the pedestrian or wheelchair user.
So stop feeling persecuted. The public don’t hate you. More often than not, they simply don’t know yet the wonders that await them with two feet or two wheels. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club thinks you’re wonderful and beautiful for reading this far. If you’re feeling down, go out for a nice bicycle ride. Otherwise The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club will come round and persecute you.