Why is cycling conservative?

So I’ve put forward the premise that cycling is conservative but I have yet to make the case. Of course my entire blog is designed to do that but I think it’s worth a separate post on the topic.


Yep, that’s Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman!!

Why do I think cycling is conservative? One way — albeit a very hard way — to explain is to use Kirk’s ten principles of conservatism and apply them to cycling. I’ll give it a try.

“First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order”. According to Kirk, “that order is made for man [humans], and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent. This word order signifies harmony”. Cycling promotes that harmony, harmony with the machine, harmony with the environment, harmony with your fellow cyclists and other commuters, harmony with the urban landscape. Other activities do this as well, but cycling is an exemplar.

“Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity. It is old custom that enables people to live together peaceably; the destroyers of custom demolish more than they know or desire”. Cycling has a long history and has it’s established customs and rules. The basic technology itself has not changed in over 100 years.

“Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time”. I’ll cheat here and ask you to see above! It’s the same principle – history, tradition, longevity, the wisdom of our elder cyclists.

“Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. There is nothing more prudent than cycling – it is a relatively cheap and easy way to navigate the city.

“Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems.” Cycling is a long-established social institution that resists conformity much to the chagrin of the Leftist who wants to make cycling a political activity with a “narrow uniformity” (e.g. you cycle so you must think like a Leftist) and “deadening egalitarianism” (e.g. cycle paths). Just look at cyclists in European cities – for the most part, they all ride the same style of bike and use the same bike lanes and ride at the same speed.

“Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man [humans] being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created”. The conservative cyclist denies we can create a cycling utopia and believes the attempt to create one will only lead to tyranny.

“Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.” We own our bicycles. They are a part of us unlike a subway or street car. Kirk adds” the conservative acknowledges that the possession of property fixes certain duties upon the possessor; he accepts those moral and legal obligations cheerfully. The conservative cyclist obeys the rules of the road and keeps his or her bicycle safe and in good repair. I wonder how abused shared or Bixi/Citi bikes are?

Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism”. The key word for the conservative cyclist is “voluntary” – we come together or not as we see fit locally. We resist government-sponsored or sanctioned associations. We rarely participate in Critical Mass rides – way too radical and authoritarian . We form associations based on mutual interest and are free to disassociate when those interests are no longer mutual. And we resist the call to make bicycles political tools of the Left.

Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions”...The conservative endeavors to so limit and balance political power that anarchy or tyranny may not arise”. Leave the government out of cycling. It’s one less thing for government to usurp from the people. Did you know that Ontario has an official cycling strategy?  http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling/ How ever did we survive as a province without a cycling strategy?

“Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects”.  The conservative cyclist agrees. Now I think I’ll enjoy a whiskey and a cigar and watch a classic movie.


Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly on the set of “Rear Window”

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