A note from our Executive Director: Introducing the Crossroads, a new column that highlights the intersections of bike stuff and the rest of the world. In this column we’ll talk about today’s challenges, particularly those that are not overtly related to bicycling but are connected, can’t be ignored, and impact our ability to achieve our goal of 10% bike trips by 2025.
To kick off the column, Ehsaneh Sadr, SVBC’s Development Manager talks about the travel ban and bicycling. Unrelated you say? Read on to learn about how these two issues cross.
“Maybe you can teach bicyclists to obey traffic laws.” ~ A neighbor, upon learning I’d started working at SVBC.
Over the past week I’ve been quite touched by the number of people who’ve expressed support and solidarity in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Donald Trump’s travel ban. Although the direct impact on my life is minimal, it’s been disheartening and a bit scary to see the animus directed at Islam and Muslims by the president and many of those around him. On a recent ride around Calistoga (on a tandem!) my husband and I got into a heated discussion about whether and when we might need to prepare for a move to Canada.
Over the course of my career, I’ve thought a lot about what causes groups of people to demonize and seek to restrict the rights of those that are different. Before coming to SVBC, I worked on human rights issues in the Middle East (mostly Israel/Palestine) where rights and privileges often depend entirely on identity characteristics like one’s religion, ethnicity, or gender. And since I’ve been at SVBC, I’ve been surprised to witness the level of animosity directed at bikers by drivers and residents who wish to reduce our access to safe transportation infrastructure.
Perhaps part of this is hard-wired as leftover brain bugs from a time when fear and hostility to outsiders played a role in ensuring survival for our evolutionary ancestors. Another part is due to simple ignorance about differences, like drivers who don’t realize the safety concerns that cause bikers to take the middle of the road.
A third issue is the fact that bad behavior stands out. No one notices the millions of bikers staying safely in their lane or the millions of ordinary Muslims going about their day – it’s the scofflaws and terrorists that are reported on and often presumed to represent an entire population of people.
Despite my concerns and fears about where our country is headed, I’m repeatedly heartened and inspired by the amazing individuals I am lucky enough to know who are well aware of the way distorted reporting and our own brain bugs create stereotypes; and are committed to combating them. These are the folks that are reaching out to those that are different to build bridges of solidarity that will protect us all by ensuring that rights and privileges – like access to safe infrastructure or the ability to invite your in-laws for a visit – aren’t based on identity characteristics.
It’s because of folks like these that I ultimately agree with my husband that we’re going to be living – and biking! – safely here in California for many years to come.