Thursday, August 18, 2011

More bike news

Sometimes a Bike is Just a Bike: On the symbolism—and politics—of bicycling in D.C.

"You don’t have to be a cultural-studies professor to see why the dichotomy appealed to pundits. The political significance of bikes can’t be fully understood without a nod to their supposed opposite: cars. Anyone with access to a Bruce Springsteen album knows there are deep veins of American culture where four wheels signify freedom, adulthood, and maybe even America itself. Those who shun automobiles, by extension, shun all of those things. Like grown-ups playing kickball or attending Twitter-fed snowball fights, such a rejection of traditional adulthood seems like the realm of the privileged."

I did not take this picture. Rather, I didn't photograph it.
I did take it. From the article.

 Most of the article deals specifically with D.C. and parts of the city that even I, as a D.C.-aficionado, don't recognize but that paragraph can be applied anywhere. Because cyclists do get written off as Lance Armstrongs and ungrateful privileged hipsters. Either you're in spandex or you're in a ragged vintage t-shirt mommy and daddy shelled out fifty buckaroonies for. Not to mention the language in that paragraph just sings. It's true that the car is America, the freedom and everything else it symbolizes.

But being anti-car isn't being anti-America. Hell, not all cyclists are anti-car! I drive. Sometimes. When I can't avoid it and slash or I'm feeling really lazy, or I'm in a huge rush. Full disclosure, I have this irrational fear that the engine is going to explode and kill me so yeah, I guess I am anti-car. Necessary evil and all. But that doesn't make me anti-America. I get angry and kind of start to froth at the mouth about some of the politics around here—but it's because I think they're anti-America! I love this country and what it stands for and what it can be and all the opportunities it's given me.

Including the opportunity to ride a bike.

Suck on that, bike-hating car people.

Plus, you can't paint all cyclists with the same brush. The article details it out for D.C., but here in Dallas cyclists are a huge range of people. There's the people like me, young, white, relatively affluent, who bike because they can and also have a car. Call me a hipster if you want (but I don't rely on my parents for the cash monies). But I'm the only white cyclist on the DART. Where I work in Irving/Las Colinas, I'm the only white cyclist. Maybe people can't afford a car. Maybe people can't get a license. Maybe people are just cutting down on the cost of living. Or, like the guy trying to chat me up on the train, maybe people owe tens of thousands of dollars in court fees so they trashed their license and haven't gotten behind the wheel in the better part of a decade.

Different strokes, people.


  1. I don't shun cars either, but I definitely prefer cycling or walking, and encourage others to consider them as great alternatives to hopping into the car to travel a short distance. This preference means that it's been weeks since I drove my car. I'm still not sure why many cyclists cling so avidly to their own peculiar way of cycling and shun those who cycle differently, though. I wave exuberantly at all users of all forms of two-wheeeled human-powered transport regardless of their specific fashion or riding technique choices.

  2. So, riding a bike is a sign of being privileged? Seems a stretch in an attempt to create stereotypes.

  3. Ya, the article used that paragraph to illustrate the "sound bytes" version of the argument that tried to simplify everything down to black and white. Everybody cycles their own way for their own reasons.