Powerdynamics and urban biking

I see that a lot of my fellow white dudes in tech enjoy biking - so let’s use that analogy to talk about diversity, power dynamics and understanding why marginalized groups are wary of us as a group.

As a biker in Berlin I am constantly wary of the cars around me - they take up the majority of space on the road, they can hurt me easily and are completely oblivious to that fact.

I’ve had many terrible experiences with cars, not respecting my space, driving in the bike lane, not stopping, yelling at me - even after hitting me… And most of them think they are amazing drivers - so amazing that they drive while looking at a phone, speeding for fun, honk their horn for fun etc

For bikers - car owners fun is a threat and that they are oblivious to their power just scares us even further So I put all cars in the same bucket - I generally fear them - yes, not all cars are assholes - but the few are a hazard to me - so I keep my distance.

But here’s the thing: my relative power as a biker in traffic is the direct opposite of my relative power in my work life, being a white dude tech leader

  • I have all the power and privilege, compared to my teams consisting of 13 nationalities from mostly outside Europe.

Comparing the 2 gives me perspective on how other people can see me in my professional context- through my gender, ethnicity and background I am potentially the office version of a truck at full speed without visibility. So per my relative power - I need to be aware of the damage I can cause, I need to be extra mindful, and need to give room rather than speed ahead- and understand why some are wary of me. Especially the last part, don’t expect people to be friendly or “close” with you - the relative power difference is a risk, and it is safer to keep a distance - as a privileged individual - don’t take it personal, and also, be aware that your attempts at being friendly can be perceived as something entirely different, and its your responsibility as the most powerful party to be mindful of when that line is crossed.

So fellow white dude, you are a truck in traffic, give room to the bikers, be mindful of your actions and accept that it’s on you to ensure there’s room for everyone.

Being the most privileged and fortunate is also an obligation to support other people.