I am someone’s mom and I ride a bike

A friend just posted a picture of her new bike jersey. Love it. I’m also a mum and a cyclist and I want one too. Both parenting and cycling are big parts of my identity.

I also want drivers to know that cyclists are regular people, with families and loved ones. The lycra clothes and carbon bikes don’t give us super powers.

The company that makes the jerseys, Carytown Bicycles says,
“Moms ride too. Drivers need to recognize that there is a family somewhere that needs its mother to make it home safe and sound. Don’t mess with moms!”

But I confess that at some level I have a mixed feelings about the “mom” jersey. What if I’d decided not to have children? It would still be wrong to run me off the road, right?

Now there is a “dad” version too. And a “daughter,” and “son,” version too.

Maybe I’ve been thinking too much about families and the many shapes which they come. I just gave a talk at the Rochester Institute of Technology part of which was about extending the scope of morally significant family relationships beyond parent and child.

But even those isolated from their families or who voluntarily live alone need to be treated with respect on the road.



But there’s also a special worry about “mom” language. It’s hard get respect for women as persons. See I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person. It’s about appeals to family relationships in the case of sexual assault.

“The truth is that I am someone’s wife. I am also someone’s mother. I am someone’s daughter, and someone’s sister. But those are not the things that define me, or make me valuable in this world. Those are not the reasons that I should be able to live a life free from rape, sexual assault or any kind of violent crime.

I have value because I am a person. Full stop. End of argument. This isn’t even a discussion that we should be having.”

Maybe I’m overthinking things. Surprise! Philosophers do that.

Maybe it’s as simple as saying that anything that results in fewer cyclists dying on our roads is a good thing.

I had similar reservations about research that shows that drivers consistently give women riders more room on road. See Implicit bias, women riders, and helmet pigtails.

“Want to get more room on the road while riding your bike? Here’s one way. Have drivers judge that you’re female.
Study after study shows that drivers give more room when passing female cyclists. They also give more room to riders without helmets but that’s another issue.”

Maybe in the end what matters is getting better treatment and more room on the road. Wear helmet pigtails whatever your gender. Wear the “mom” jersey whether or not you have kids. If “baby on board” stickers mean other drivers behave better around your car, go for it.

Carytown also sells this t-shirt which I love.


21 thoughts on “I am someone’s mom and I ride a bike

  1. Lots of good points you make. I lost my Dad 3 years ago to a cycling accident. Whether a shirt would have saved him? I have no idea, but when out there riding in populated areas, I agree, do whatever you think will work, rather than worry about how fair it all is. Drivers only have a few seconds to read and react and you might as well make that “mom on board” shirt effective and snappy (or dad on board, etc).so people quickly make a decision to be more careful, sounds like it works.

  2. Interesting!

    I saw that they also sell ones for men that say “I am someone’s Dad.” I don’t think this makes it a non-issue, but it’s at least worth noting that this isn’t one of those cases where we’re just talking about something done to/for/of women, right? Something that I keep noticing is how when I read about exercise it seems to come up, for women, as a way to be a better mother/daughter/sister/wife (either implicitly or explicitly) — but not so much a way to help your case as a father/brother/son/husband…also interesting, no?

    Happy Monday! Enjoy the warm weather this week. BICYCLE!

    1. Two worries. One is the valuing of parents over non parents. The other is the valuing of women, insofar as we’re daughters, wives, mothers.

      But…I agree that this might not be the time and place for these worries. Maybe on the road, whatever works. Though I’d draw the line at a “Don’t hit me, I vote Conservative” jersey!

      And it’s certainly true that I think about my kids when I’m out on my bike, though also when driving, flying etc too. Parents are an anxious crowd!

  3. I’m so glad to see someone else with similar thoughts, thanks for putting them out there for discussion! Obviously, whatever helps safety can be a good thing, but preferencing some lives above others because of particular choices or relationships is concerning. (I say that as a woman approaching 50 who doesn’t have kids – I’m often invisible in many situations!)

  4. I was once taking a cab to work and a cyclist made somewhat aggressive gestures to the taxi driver and yelled at him. I don’t know who was in the right or wrong because I was texting when it all happened. But the a%@#%h&le cabbie took it personally and started driving aggressively and pretending that he was going to swerve over and hit the cyclist, quite a number of times, and I honesly think that if he could have gotten away with it wiithout any repercussions he would have sideswiped him! I said nothing as I was somewhat stunned at the whole thing but on reflection, I really should have told him to pull over and gotten out of the cab. It really is dangerous for cyclists, not only because of drivers’ negligence but also because alot, and I mean ALOT of drivers deeply resent bicyclists and any aggressive moves or gestures by a bicyclist can instill almost murderous road rage in some. So I say – yeah, whatever – who the heck cares about the moral message if it actually keeps you alive?! Be a mom, a daughter, even a conservative! I vote in favour of staying alive.

  5. I wonder if almost anything inside a big yellow triangle on the back of your jersey would help draw attention to you and make drivers more cautious. I sometimes think of wearing one of those reflective orange and yellow vests that the crossing guards wear, or putting something hard to miss on the back of my jersey/jacket. My biggest worry out there is not being visible. Second biggest worry is texting drivers who won’t see me no matter how visible I try to make myself.

    1. And also hits from behind although dangerous aren’t that common, just 20 percent of car bike accidents. Much more common? Intersections. That’s where I’m very cautious.

  6. “Maybe I’m overthinking things. Surprise! Philosophers do that.” would also make an awesome t-shirt…

  7. I’m not a fan of the shirt, much like I’m not a fan of the “baby on board” signs on cars. Like you said, merely being human means you’re deserving of respect and sharing the road with.

    I understand that maybe having your own baby in the car with you might make you drive safer, but you really think other people are going to drive recklessly, thinking “it doesn’t matter if I hit this adult!” and then see the sign, and go “Oh, never mind it’s a baby, I actually will try to avoid rear ending them now!” Um, no. Likewise, you think someone’s going to be “oh, it’s ok if I hit this bike rider since they’re in my way… oh they’re someone’s mom, never mind!” Only a psychopath would think that way.

    1. Disagree with you, with resepct. People are not consistent and many have psychopathic tendencies that can come out at times. The road is full of very aggressive drivers who are given to road rage – a psychopathic thing, in all likelihood. If they can be taken out of that state at the last meaningful second by a sign on a shirt connecting them to the people around them, I say: “Wear the shirt with that sign on it!”

  8. Ah, it takes a driver time to read the message..if they aren’t texting!!

    A jersey could say:

    I am a daughter, sister
    wife, mother, aunt, partner, friend, worker
    Mentor 😀

    on 1 shirt

    Sad to say, all those roles were voiced a sister’s eulogy (she was a mother of 2 adult children). I don’t have any children but I miss my sister daily. She is the sister to me, not the mother. They are each equally important roles to loved ones.

  9. Very thought-provoking post, Sam! As a cyclist and philosopher, I honestly don’t know what to think about the “I’m a mom” yellow diamond jersey. As a non-mom, I would also like my humanity (and fragile material self) to be noted by potentially dangerous drivers when I’m riding. As a feminist, I chafe at a practice of portraying women as different, more vulnerable, more sentimentalized (if that can be considered a word) in the name of protection, but in ways that we all know could perpetuate stereotypes that harm us. As a cyclist, I know it’s a jungle out there, and I believe there are too many deaths and injuries of cyclists by drivers, and virtually no justice for them and their loved ones. So this is a tough one. Will keep thinking on it…

    1. Look…when your life is not at stake, you should care about perpetuating certain harmful stereotypes, for sure. But when your life is at stake, at the risk of sounding completely dismissive and unthoughtful, who fu^$ing cares? You’re not in a real war here where you should be willing to “die for the cause”. You’re just a person riding a bicycle on a city street, for gosh sakes! Err on the side of life. Geeeez….oh well, just my 2 cents.

  10. Just as a complete aside here, I do not value my life over the life of anyone else, and I do not value the lives of mothers and fathers over the lives of people without children. Of course not. But most parents just know intrinsically that they would sacrifice their lives for their children without a second thought. And most parents deeply, and I mean DEEPLY fear for their children should they not be around to care for them. IMHO, all these t-shirts and signs are doing are expressing these latter thoughts, hopefully, to people who might understand because they too have children. These signs are not meant to even sub-consciously suggest that one life is any more important than any other life. I am just so unsure about any of this reaction I am hearing to these signs suggesting absolutely anything different. Again, IMHO, it is the people without children who are misinterpreting the meaning here almost entirely – and I am assigning no blame here – I am almost certain that before I had children I too would have misinterpreted this said meaning in exactly the same way, for sure!

  11. Hi Sam – Better late than never, but thank you for providing some great exposure and very insightful discussion regarding our kit! These have been greatly received for the most part and we are glad that we can at least open a bigger discussion about bike safety through these jerseys, whether or not those discussing choose to adorn them.

    Take care and we will see you on the road!

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