Biker versus bicyclist?
Person riding bike or bicyclist?
“Avid cyclist” or “bicycling enthusiast”? Are you really enthused about bicycling? How avid does one need to be so that others will consider him or her an “avid cyclist”?
What about driver versus motorist? Motorist can imply that it’s a person who enjoys motoring.
Or, car versus motorist?
Did the car hit you, or did a person driving a car hit you?
“The car stopped and talked to the guy. The car left-hooked my friend.” Do cars talk? Do cars operate by themselves?
Crash versus accident? (don’t have time to talk about this)
When you describe a bicycling riding, and you say they had to “SWERVE out of the way,” do you think that some people may interpret that as the bicyclist doing something they shouldn’t be doing? Maybe they were just swerving to avoid a pothole and crashed, or they swerved to avoid getting hit by someone driving a car when the cyclist disobeyed a red signal. A more objective phrase would be, “the bicyclist maneuvered to avoid hitting the pothole.” In that sense, I’ve made it seem like the bicyclist was riding assertively and in their best interest. Notice earlier how I said “disobeyed a red signal” instead of “blew a red light”?
When we open our dialogue in order to understand others and to be understand ourselves, language and word choice matters. Be specific, but more importantly be descriptive so that you’re not misunderstood.
Some have called Mayor Rahm Emanuel an “avid cyclist.” Does this photo of him make you think of yourself as someone who bicycles, or your peers?
Cross posted to Moving Design. Read more policy insights from Steven Vance.