Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Go ahead. Drive your bike

Drive, as a verb
1 [no object, usually with adverbial of direction] operate and control the direction and speed of a (motor) vehicle

2 [with object and adverbial of direction] propel or carry along by force in a specified direction:the wind will drive you onshore

3 [with object and adverbial of direction] urge or force (animals or people) to move in a specified direction:they drove a flock of sheep through the centre of the city

4 [with object] (of a fact or feeling) compel (someone) to act in a particular way, especially one that is considered undesirable or inappropriate:

Ride, as a verb

[with object] 1 sit on and control the movement of (an animal, typically a horse): 
 2 be carried or supported by (something moving with great momentum):
Ugh. Bicycle Driving, to me, is the rhetorical equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard.  Perhaps technically correct under (2) above, i.e., to propel your bicycle in a specific direction, but still...weird and not typical useage.  Although since a bicycle is propelled by the vehicle operator, perhaps it indeed is more technically correct than the more passive "ride".

Maybe its because I’ve been *riding* bicycles and motorcycles continuously for 54 years. My stepdad taught me to ride my bike (using vehicular principles, as much as such stuff can be explained to a precocious first grader) when I was 5 or 6.  I was often on the back of his motorcycle and got my first two wheeled gas burner, a small motocross bike, when I was fifteen.  “Driving” a bicycle or motorcycle just sounds painfully contrived as language.

Sure, I understand that the use of “driving a bicycle” is to try to make people, including non-cyclists and many cyclists, understand that the proper and safe way to ride (ahem) a bicycle (or motorcycle) in any traffic situation (including separate cycling facilities) is according to well established vehicular traffic principles: riding predictably, with the flow, keeping right in the US, obeying traffic laws, etc., etc.,…Hence programs like Cycling Savvy and the League's Traffic Skills courses.

I think competent motorcyclists understand those principles, and so do bicyclists who have already adopted the ….ohmygodI’mgonnasayit…Vehicular Cycling… mentality. Yes, VC is a politically incorrect expression nowadays due to all the bad blood, fighting, and misunderstandings between the various cycling camps and indeed, it seems a foreign concept to some motorists that some of us will be riding our bikes on the roads, obeying the same laws as they do and even worse, taking up space.

To me, Bicycle Driving and Vehicular Cycling mean the same thing, but then again I bought Forester’s Effective Cycling book over twenty years ago.

“Driving a bicycle”, or for that matter, “driving a motorcycle” to me, has all the elegance of a cell phone conversation in the middle of the opera. You drive a car. You ride on a bicycle or motorcycle, and yes, proper vehicular operational rules do apply.

End of rant.


Steve A said...

I'd rather pilot my bike than either. For commuters, mostly, God is our copilot...

Ian Brett Cooper said...

On my tours of Germany and Europe, I spent about 9 months in Germany. Germans kept asking where I was 'driving'. It just stuck with me and I now tend to use the word 'drive' when I'm using the bicycle.

Technically, a bicycle is the only vehicle that you, by definition, actually ‘drive’. You are the engine, your muscles drive the pedals.

It only sounds jarring because you've been brought up to find it jarring. Open your mind and learn to tolerate definition #2. It would also be definition #1 if the parenthetical word 'motor' was omitted.

Khal said...

If we were being that esoteric, Ian, then fine. But the cycling community is not being that esoteric. It is appropriating the motorist meaning of "drive", as pointed out by Andy Cline at Carbon Trace: "...I am deliberately appropriating language used and understood by motorists to refer to what they do with motor vehicles — specifically the verb “drive.”..."

I don't think cyclists should feel the need to ape the language of motorists in order to justify our existence. If folks want to use the active verb "drive" for bicycling, that is fine. Its already used in bike racing, i.e., a team goes to the front of the peloton and "drives" the peloton in order to control the tempo of the race.

The underlying rationale for my rant was not to try to fight over which word to use, but definitely to pick a fight over whether we need to justify our existence by trying to lighten our complexion, so to speak, with our rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

"Vehicular cycling" as "riding a bike" is linguistically equivalent to "butt sex" as "making love." Just my opinion, of course. Maybe I've never had good butt sex or any satisfying experiences while out vehicular cycling...