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Monday, September 10, 2007

A dinosaur roars

Image of bicycling mother and child in San Francisco's Golden Gate ParkFrom the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 09.09.07:

Cyclists need to soft-pedal their wants

Daily letters from "insulted," "offended," "shocked" and "outraged" readers are printed in the P-I. A few of those grouchy letters have been mine. Nearly all my complaints dealt with one topic: bicycling.

So, what's my problem?

I have nothing against bikes, bikers, bike clubs or bike trails. But it's not the bikes or everyday cyclists that concern me: It's the in-your-face radical activists and their two-wheel orgies...

In my opinion, most high-profile biking spokes-men come across as demanding not engaging, hostile not cooperative. If only their messages stressed the healthy pleasures of biking instead of peddling ultimatums, I'd be more sympathetic to their constant wheedling for more joy-riding paths, perks and roadway accommodations...

Feel as grumpy about all this as I do, readers? Then join me in writing your own cranky "distressed" letter. Let's stir up some opposition to the King Kong biking dynasty in our midst by goading local newspapers to start providing as much ink about our apprehensions as they do for those operatic biker jihads. (Read more.)
Oh, don't I love this kind of reactionary nonsense. As many contributers to the SFBIKE listserve have illustrated in the past, replace every reference to "bicyclists" or "bikers" with some traditionally marginalized group (pedestrians, African Americans, gays, women, immigrants) and you'll recognize the real hate expressed here. "I have no problem with [oppressed group]...but the [oppressed group's] extremists are simply going too far..."

Seattle has a "King Kong biking dynasty"?!? Um, right. I bet Seattle's cyclists will be surprised to learn that. The poorly informed misrepresentations featured in this screed are typical:
- bicyclists are "freeloading sponges" (actually, we do pay sales and income taxes used to maintain local roads, which are excessively exploited by motorists)
- we are threats/enemies to other non-motorized travelers (actually poorly designed shared use facilities encourage conflicts)
- our self-serving campaigns "piggyback" on worthy selfless causes (actually, bike advocates are often the most effective component of most livability campaigns)
What the author is really saying is that the (auto-dominated) status quo suits him fine, and any push for reasonable change is objectionable. He is offended by, um, well, politics. If we simply ride our bikes quietly, no problem. When we organize to express grievances and demand improvements, then big problem.

What bicyclists really demand is equality; a share of public resources commensurate with our numbers. As one bicyclist once wisely stated:
Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on our public roads, just as does every other user. Nothing more is expected. Nothing less is acceptable.
Image: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Bicycling extremists inconveniencing motorists
Visit: Delucchi Study Finds That U.S. Motorists Do Not Pay Their Way, Streetsblog
Visit: The cost of commuting by bicycle, Northwest Pacific Institute
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips


clark said...

paul, you explain all that exactly correctly. i was just reading an article in seattle's free weekly paper The Stranger about a band called TacocaT. they have bicyclists on their enemies list:
"You're drawn in by the sugar-high beats and your blood starts pumping harder during the angry polemics about douchebag bicyclists who take themselves too seriously... When i suggest their splenetic 'Bike Party' is going to create some enemies in Seattle's notoriously hardcore cycling community, Nokes is blase'."
notoriously hardcore? i rather doubt that. most of them are just trying to get to work and back with minimal interference. why should that be so controversial?

Anonymous said...


Imagine paying 20-, 30-, 40-grand or more for a gas-guzzling behemoth (or sporty hybrid) and still having to watch the bikes wizz by in the bike lane while you sit in traffic.

Rather than admit that you'd bought the lie and paid retail, you lash out at those smarter, faster, and healthier than yourself.

Buyt I say, lash out all you want, dinosaurs; the world is changing and you're a dying breed.

The revolution will not be motorized.

Sub-Commander Sasquatch

sasquatch2 said...

dude, please send your comments in a letter to the editor of those papers. blogging only reaches those who already agree or are interested, where as newpapers go to everyone who reads them.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think that calling cyclists an "oppressed group" and implicitly comparing us to African Americans is a little over-the-top? I ride my bike 20 miles each way to work every day, and I must say I find my experience with motorists to be overwhelmingly positive. I certainly have to deal with the occasional jerk or clueless driver, but no more frequently than when I drove a car. Maybe my perspective is a little different than most as I don't have to deal with heavy urban traffic, but such rhetoric really does seem to go a bit far in my opinion.

BTW - My commute is from Adamstown, Md to Germantown, MD if you want to see where I ride.