The Term “Cyclist” Is Dehumanizing, Especially Of Black People Who Ride Bikes

The media routinely refers to a person riding a bike as a “cyclist”, especially when there’s a police report as a result of a crash. It is often unintentional on the part of the journalist, but that’s not an excuse. It’s a dehumanization of the person, taking the onus off the driver in a crash. The auto industry has deliberately co-opted our language to devalue people who ride bikes as “cyclists” and the same goes for people walking, labeling them “pedestrians”.

We need to change our perception of who a person riding a bike is, who a Black person riding a bike is, who “owns’ the sport, and we need to change our language….and that’s just a start.

The author of this article, Tamika Butler makes a point that she’s a person, as opposed to a “cyclist”. A Black person, a genderqueer person, a mom. “A person who—particularly when the world seems to be falling apart—needs to bike to feel sane, balanced, and healthy.”

Tamika participated in a panel: Bicycling At The Intersections, with a group comprised of Black trans, femme, women, and non-binary cyclists who collectively shared their experiences of race and identity within the sport, and breaking through white supremacy.

“Bikes Are an Expression of Black Joy. Here’s How 5 Riders Break Through White Supremacy”.



I Love to Ride My Bike. But I Won’t Call Myself a ‘Cyclist.’


I have always thought of myself as “a person who bikes.” More than that, a person who loves to bike. A person who—particularly when the world seems to be falling apart—needs to bike to feel sane, balanced, and healthy. As a mom who is also a genderqueer, Black woman from the Midwest, there are lots of identities I use to describe myself—and plenty of words other people use to describe me. But “cyclist” has never been one of them.I am not skinny. I am not white.

I am not straight. I am not a man. Just Google the term and see that the central casting version of “cyclist” seems to check most or all of these boxes. I have never checked those boxes.

Read more:

What Is A “Cyclist”?



Words Matter. What Is A Pedestrian?

We’re happy to have discovered the website and program WalkSafe, the University of Miami pediatric injury prevention program. The blog is great, as evidenced in the piece linked below about the effects of words like “pedestrian” in reporting car crashes.

As we have written before, the use of certain words can dehumanize people. Consider the terms, “pedestrian”, “cyclist”,  vs “person walking”, and “person riding a bike”.  In the description of a motor vehicle crash (most often erroneously called an “accident”), the person who has been killed is referred to as a “pedestrian” or “cyclist”, without context, effectively blunting the emotional impact of the fatal incident. In this article: “Pedestrian Killed by Santa Barbara City Bus“, as implied in the title the inference is that the bus acted on it’s own.  As in so many news articles, the writer seems to be protecting the identity of the driver, and since the driver seems to be absent, the death was an accident with no human victim, and car culture continues.

WalkSafe doesn’t aim educational materials and PSAs at children and their behavior, making them responsible for their own safety, but rather “…advocates for facilities and infrastructure improvements to the school environment by collaborating with local governments, traffic planners, school districts and the community.”


“Last October, we brought this point up on Twitter: The word “pedestrian” needs a rethink. Today, we are giving these thoughts a more permanent home on the WalkSafe blog.

Perhaps it may seem odd for a walking advocacy organization to criticize the word pedestrian. Many advocates – including ourselves – use the word to promote walkability every day.

Nevertheless, the word is flawed. One could argue that it unintentionally works against walking advocacy.

“For starters, let us avoid the word “pedestrian.” A “pedestrian” should simply be a “person walking.” You could even argue that a pedestrian is “a person,” as a pedestrian can be standing too. That is not to say this simple change of language will solve the safety crisis on its own. Far from it. It is, however, one of many micro steps necessary to build emotional support in favor of safety.”

Learn more about WalkSafe:

Each year, an alarming number of pedestrians under the age of 14 are severely injured or killed in pedestrian-hit-by-car (PHBC) incidents. These PHBC rates are particularly high in the State of Florida and in its largest county, Miami-Dade.

Learn more…