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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Zen and the Art of Bike Commuting

Image of Be your own Jesus graffitiI found this amusing graffito on a street corner in San Francisco's Mission District. It's interesting on several levels. First as a rebuke to SUV-driving evangelicals and true believers, posing the question of just what is driving one to drive. Are you really in control of your transportation choices, or is some "higher power" driving you? (In this sense, this graffito echoes the great site, What Would Jesus Drive?)

The second interesting angle is how this graffito gives evidence to the way that artists, outcasts, antinomians, creatives, free-thinkers, rebels, and other irreverents have found a home in San Francisco's bike community. There's a sort of bike tribe in San Francisco, which embraces a broad assortment of expressive radicals or would-be radicals, the youthful and the young in spirit. In short, it's cool to be a biker. At least in San Francisco.

This cultural trend is hopeful. If transportation choice were simply a matter of efficiency, convenience, and cost, then walking, biking, and transit would predominate. These modes just make more sense.

But, sadly, in a culture like ours that offers so few opportunities for self-affirmation beyond vacuous consumerism, vehicles are an expression of personality. Drivers of Escalades project a different personality type than owners of, say, a Prius. (And I have to wonder what morons would be attracted to this vehicular monster. My wife suggests insecurity about sex organ size drives American males to larger vehicles. She's not alone.)

Part of the reason why cycling has grown in popularity in San Francisco--as demonstrated by census figures on commuting showing a 108 percent increase in bike commuting since 1990--is because the bike community has created an appealing cultural home for those dissatisfied by the fossil-fooled status quo. Critical Mass, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the Bike Kitchen, San Francisco Bicycle Ballet, local bike shops, and many others have all fostered a hopeful, fun, and highly attractive bicycling culture in the city.

Bike lanes are critically important. But they're not enough.

Image: Paul Dorn
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

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