They are people who bike or walk, not some separate species.
Earlier this year I wrote a post titled People who walk and bike in Toronto are fed up. I could have written "Pedestrians and cyclists in Toronto are fed up" but wanted to stress that these are people, these are citizens, these are not abstract constructions. "People who bike" is sometimes awkward compared to just saying cyclist, but it's important to never lose sight of what they are -- people.
THREAD: There's a problem with the word "pedestrian." pic.twitter.com/sfClKruRLK— WalkSafe (@iWalkSafe) October 11, 2018
I am not alone; there is a fascinating thread on Twitter started by Walksafe out of Miami. It all started with a weird story from Florida headlined 1 hurt after SUV crashes into Barnes & Noble in Coral Gables. The driver (not car) injured a man inside the bookstore but, fortunately, "no pedestrians were hurt." As the tweeter at Walksafe notes, "Somehow, 'no pedestrians were hurt' in an incident where an driver in an SUV made what appears to be an illegal U-turn, jumped a bollard, smashed into the wall of a building, and injured a man inside said building enough that 'the victim had blood all over his face'."
The terms "pedestrians" and "cyclists" are definitely more distancing and desensitizing - abstract - than "people walking" and "people on bikes" - which is why we try to use the latter, as long as it's not too stilted.— VA Bicycling Fed. (@vabike) October 11, 2018
It got picked up by other people who bike.
Good thread. Michael Ronkin taught me years ago to not be lazy with my writing. It’s more wordy, but saying “person walking,” or “person driving” matters in many subtle ways. I still slip up but always try to be conscious of the implications of words chosen.— Mike Lydon (@MikeLydon) October 12, 2018
Mike Lydon, co-author of Tactical Urbansm, jumped in as well.
I’m not a cyclist either. I’m a Person. I walk, I ride bikes and bikeshare and buses/metro @IRideMDT and @TriRailAlerts and @GoBrightline and @MiamiTrolley. I want to ride scootershare and take watertaxis, too!— Kathryn Moore (@viakrm) October 11, 2018
Kathryn is right. Most people who bike also walk and also drive. In fact, a new study by a British insurance company found that people who bike actually become better people who drive. Carlton Reid reports in Forbes that according to Nick Day of Chris Knott Insurance, people who have driver-only policies make twice the number of claims each year than those who have cyclist-driver policies.
“Cycling trains you to be more alert to the dangers of road use and better able to anticipate hazards,” explained Day. “You’re more aware of how you fit into your surroundings, and you’ll ride, or drive, accordingly. Physical exercise [also] leads to improved mental agility, making cyclists more responsive drivers.”
Of course, it could also be simply that they bike more and drive less. But let's stick with the story because it reinforces my point: cyclists and pedestrians are people, not hobbyists or athletes doing something strange. They are just trying to get around using different modes of transportation.
Let's not depersonalize it. On TreeHugger I will continue to avoid the words cyclist and pedestrian, and I will continue to be a person who bikes and walks and drives.
Beware "avid cyclists"
And for a bit of hilarity, read Eben Weiss on the use of the adjective "avid", which automatically turns a cyclist into someone who hates cyclists.
Despite having the word “cyclist” in their name, you won’t find avid cyclists at the mountain bike trail, on the road hunkered down in a paceline, riding around the city with one pant leg rolled up, or any place else you typically encounter regular cyclists. Rather, avid cyclists seem to frequent community meetings, local TV news segments, and Internet comment sections, where they can generally be found making sweeping pronouncements that begin: “Well, I’m an avid cyclist and…,” followed by a lengthy explanation of how cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road and/or why that local bike lane project shouldn’t happen.
More in Outside Magazine.