Recently, there has been an uproar about some videos showing bike riders performing stunts on the road and riding dangerously while breaking many traffic laws and road rules. Some people shared the videos for “awareness”—including this website—but personally, I don’t believe in doing that, and I think it actually hurts cycling more than it possibly helps it.
First, there really isn’t any positive point to showing the videos. We know what safe cycling is. We know that no matter what our choice of transport is, we should follow road rules for safety. We know that we should respect pedestrians most of all, that we should give them more than enough space on the road even when the entire world is honking. A video of people riding dangerously and breaking road rules doesn’t really help teach anything—it just pisses people off. Sure, we know that there are bad road users of all types, but that’s why good road users drive defensively, not offensively. You do, right?
Second, I’d really rather not contribute to the culture of shaming individuals on social media. Granted, sometimes reputational damage is the appropriate consequence for particularly bad acts. The standard for shaming individuals—especially kids—on social media should be high, and it should be reserved for acts of cruelty, abuse of power, and bullying. I’ll grant that what the riders in these videos did was dangerous, but I also believe people shouldn’t be defined eternally by their mistakes. Sure, there should be consequences, but for a lot of the people in these videos, there should be chances to learn from their mistakes and become better riders and members of their community.
Third, popularizing these videos helps reinforce peoples’ images and prejudices of cycling as an inherently dangerous, lawless activity that should be discouraged instead of encouraged. All over Metro Manila, we are seeing bike parking go up in malls and townships, and bike lanes go up on major roads. Public transportation still hasn’t recovered from the pandemic, and many long-suffering commuters are finding relief in being able to cycle along safe infrastructure. Still, there are people that go out of their way to kill cycling improvements wherever they can, with some using videos like these to fight cycling infrastructure. If we popularize the videos, we are helping the people who don’t want to change anything, and hurting those people who use bikes to make their hard lives just a bit easier.
Popularizing these videos helps reinforce peoples’ images and prejudices of cycling as an inherently dangerous, lawless activity that should be discouraged instead of encouraged
Instead, I think what we should be doing is promoting content creators that show off the positive side of cycling. There are plenty of accounts on the nascent “Cycling Instagram” scene that are worth following. Check them out:
They create excellent urban riding videos without breaking traffic rules—at least not intentionally (no one’s perfect, guys). They take portraits of bikers from all walks of life. They take you to meet people and visit places that bicycles have changed forever. They are advocates for safe cycling, and they make you want to get involved in the policy and activism side.
Point is, many of us know what it’s like to be painted over with a broad brush because of the generalized reputations of a few bad actors. People who ride bicycles already have to fight an uphill battle for basic safety and decency on the road. You may already be a cyclist, and more and more of you are starting to know cyclists personally—including your family members, friends and colleagues. There’s a joke among transport scientists that around 10% of all transport research papers could be titled, “Cycling is Awesome!” There’s a good reason for that: The more cycling is studied, the more benefits that people discover it brings not just for individual health, but for the community as well.
Let’s ride this wave toward the better side of history.