Politics and Cycling

Why do bicyclists hate cyclists?

On my commute home the other day, I passed a woman bicyclist ambling and weaving in the Bloor Street Viaduct bike lane. She called me an “asshole” as I passed. As I rode the rest of the way home, I thought about the reasons why she would call me an “asshole”. Not that I’m not sometimes, but I don’t think I was this time.

AfIrp

I was moving a lot faster than she was but I gave her plenty of space. The lane is certainly wide enough to accommodate several bicyclists and, as is my usual practice, I rode on the white line separating the bike lane from the road. She had plenty of room to do her bobbing and weaving. So it couldn’t have been that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I didn’t say anything to her nor look at her as I passed.  I didn’t throw anything at or in front of her. I wasn’t wearing an offensive t-shirt or political button, not that she could see them anyway.

So what was it?

In the two or three seconds it took me to pass her, something I did pissed her off. Then it occurred to me – maybe it wasn’t something I did. I suspect it had something to do with who I am and who I represent.

You see, there are two types of people who ride bikes: the bicyclist and the cyclist.

The bicyclist likes to amble in a bicycle lane safe from cars and trucks; they ride in fair weather only – no rain or snow or any temperature above 20C or below 10C and even then they wear a parka; they ride slowly on heavy, multi-speed bicycles and carry bulky panniers or bags. They sport all sorts of lefty political buttons and flags. They hate cars but own two and one is a Volvo. They use terms like “bicycle infrastructure”, “cycle tracks”, “separated lanes”, and other catchy phrases. All well and good and I love these people.

The cyclist on the other hand likes to ride fast on the road with cars and trucks; we ride all year, in all sorts of weather; we carry a small backpack, courier bag or Henty Wingman.  We ride a fixed-gear Wabi or single-speed, racing or cyclocross bike. We use bike lanes if they are available but, when they’re not, we ride wherever we can. We respect cars and trucks because we drive one and pedestrians because we are one. And we respect bicyclists too.

But it seems some bicyclists, but mostly the bicycling advocates, actually hate cyclists.

And I know why.

You see, bicyclists want to turn “cycling” into mass transit. Have you seen the photos of bicycle lanes – BORING – do any of these people look happy? Just like taking a bus!

Copenhagen

They want cycling regulated and protected, hemmed in and controlled. They want to slow it down and make it boring and safe.

They hate cyclists like me because they resent our freedom. We are the rebels; they are the conformists. They try to insult us and make us seem selfish. They label us a “sub-culture”. One guy called us a “sect”, like we are apostates from the accepted religion of Velo. vintage4Here is my fisking of that guy, Michael Colville-Andersen, a Danish bicycling zealot, who I respect but who is dead wrong about this:

It is a small, yet vocal, group that is male-dominated, testosterone-driven [so what, why is that a bad thing? And I know plenty of young ladies who would disagree] and that lacks basic understanding of human nature [ya, cus we’re dumb, come on]. They expect that everyone should be just like them – classic sub-cultural point of view [sort of the pot calling the kettle black, don’t cha think?] – and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars [I really don’t care if you do or you don’t]. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn’t resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities [yawn – like we actually think about that when we’re riding] by reestablishing the bicycle as transport [wow – so much dreck here it’s hardly worth commenting – again, I wish the grandmothers all the best and hope they can ride well into their older age, on cycle tracks if they must]

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I urge you to read the whole smear. Heaven forbid we disagree. Check out London Cyclist and this former Labour Minister for some perspective.

My advice: don’t wait around for the zealots to force you into the bicycle lanes. Just hop on your bike and ride. There is plenty of room for all of us on the road – and plenty of good ideas from everyone in the debate.

Elevated Cycle Paths: Is Toronto missing an opportunity?

Check out this article from City Journal about elevated bicycle lanes. For Toronto, maybe these elevated lanes could be designed to run along the LRTs or John Tory’s Smart Track system?

Other cities think big. In London, famed architect Norman Foster has proposed an ambitious, 136-mile elevated bike path, to be suspended above the city’s suburban rail network. Foster’s “SkyCycle” plan—which could accommodate 400,000 bike commuters daily—has the support of former mayor and potential Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson, as well as the local government agencies responsible for London’s public transportation system. Architect David Nixon envisions a floating bike lane in the Thames River that would allow a car-free commute from the city’s residential areas to the financial district.

In Melbourne, Australia, a consortium of investors has proposed attaching an enclosed, mile-long “Veloway” to the side of an existing rail viaduct running through the city. “[C]ars, bikes and pedestrians just don’t mix well,” Committee for Melbourne CEO Kate Roffey told a reporter earlier this year. “This would solve the problem of separating cars and cyclists moving east-west across the city, and pedestrians can go under or over roads.” A similar approach would seem well suited to New York’s outer boroughs, where, unlike midtown Manhattan, elevated rail viaducts remain the norm. Many commuters in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx would likely take advantage of an option that would get them from home to work in about an hour, safely and free of charge, with a little fitness thrown in.

In Denmark, bike-friendly Copenhagen cut the ribbon this past summer on its Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake—an elevated lane providing cyclists with a much-needed traverse over a pedestrian-heavy corner of the central city. “It is one of those rare occurrences in Copenhagen where seemingly everyone is happy,” wrote Classic Copenhagen blogger Sandra Hoj. “Cars have not had to budge an inch, the lower level has been returned to pedestrians, and cyclists love it. Besides easing the transition from highway to bike bridge, it is a pure joy to ride.”

Bike Lanes Are Racist

WARNING: This post contains foul language at the end.

The Birmingham Post (UK) reports today on the political shenanigans of transforming the northern English town into a “Cycle City”:

A £23 million scheme intended to transform cycling in Birmingham has been blasted as discriminatory and only benefiting “white, young men”.

The Department for Transport has given Birmingham £17 million to become a “Cycle City” which will create a network of safe new routes aimed at tempting commuters out of their cars.

The council will also put £6.3 million into the project which will see an upgrade to some of the busiest routes in the city including Hagley Road and Bristol Road, with dedicated cycle lanes and safety improvements at junctions to encourage more cycling.

After the views were published in the Post, there was a strong backlash on social media.

But at the Edgbaston District committee Coun Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston) said she was concerned that such a large amount of effort and investment was being spent on a mode of transport predominantly used by young men.

“The vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men,” she said.

So let’s follow this logic. The argument for bike lanes goes something like this:

– cyclists are part of the transportation mix and should be provided with a safe way to travel

– bicycle lanes make the road safe for cyclists

– if we build more bike lanes, more people will cycle

– cycling is good for the environment, reduces traffic congestion, and benefits everyone

– so let’s build bike lanes

Councillor Alden says:

– only young, white men use bike lanes so FUCK THEM!

Putting aside the fact I don’t like bike lanes for a variety of reasons, I would never think to argue that they are racist. Perhaps I’m not trying hard enough. Ageist maybe? After all, I am white but I’m not young.

 

Is there really a war between cyclists and drivers in Toronto?

Elizabeth Renzetti makes some good points in her article in today’s Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/are-drivers-justified-in-their-irritation-maybe-they-should-just-think-like-cyclists/article19578005/). Although I disagree with her assertion that there is some kind of war between cyclists and drivers in Toronto, she offers good advice to both:

I have no idea how to calm the discord between cyclists and drivers. You can’t throw buckets of water on them, like you would with snarling cats. I can only say what works for me: When I ride, I think like a driver. I watch parked cars, thinking “Do I sometimes open my door distractedly because my mind is in four thousand unrelated places?” When I’m driving, I think like a cyclist: “Have I ever snuck up along the curb in order to grab a few seconds’ lead when the light changes, hoping I can outrace this car turning right?”

I think it’s good practice to think like each other but that only works if you actually do both. The vast majority of people in Canada and the US don’t ride a bike (one or two per cent according to Renzetti).

Her solution, of course, if for North America to emulate Northern Europe and to increase bicycle use to 30 per cent. All North American lefties love Northern Europe – it’s their utopia. The Swedes, The Danes and The Dutch can do no wrong. My wife and in-laws are Danish so I’m not prejudiced but haven’t we learned yet that North America is vastly different than Northern Europe and we can’t expect to do things the same way. European cities are more compact; the weather generally is much milder making it easier to ride longer throughout the year; there is a tradition if cycling in Europe that we don’t have in NA. We should stop comparing ourselves to them and do things our way.

As an aside, my father-in-law told me the story of his nephew, an avid cyclist, who came to the US from Denmark to complete a five-week ride from Montana to Texas. He had done some similar rides in Europe – Denmark to Italy for instance – but he was not prepared for the variations and extremes in weather and the distances between civilized outposts. He lasted five days.

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Anyway, in my opinion, there is no war on cyclists in Toronto that I am aware of. I generally have no trouble riding in this city.

But Renzetti continues:

The war has heated up as summer arrives, and cyclists shake off their winter wariness. Just this week, a Washington Post columnist, Courtland Milloy, wrote an anti-bike rant suggesting it might be okay to run down pesky riders: “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” (Cyclists descended in indignant protest outside the newspaper’s office.)

I’ve heard similar grumblings from drivers: Cyclists are sanctimonious risk-takers who don’t obey the rules of the road, who run stop signs and don’t put lights on their bikes. (These same drivers have never rolled through a stop sign or checked a text message while driving, of course.)

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My advice to cyclists in Toronto: be mindful of the fact that you represent only two per cent of commuters. Stop acting entitled. Obey the rules. Don’t get into arguments with drivers – it’s never worth it. The onus is on you to be alert and to be skilled. And for pity’s sake, drive a car once in awhile.

I admit I am an aggressive rider – I take my lane, I pass cars on the left frequently, I run stop signs when no one is around, I jump lights to get ahead of vehicles and to own my lane. But I’m also courteous to drivers – I ride straight, no bobbing and lolly gagging. I ride fast to keep up with traffic. I move to the right to let vehicles pass when I’m slower then they are. I use lights and wear reflective clothing at night. I signal my intentions. I very rarely get into arguments with drivers and tend to wave off minor indiscretions (but I won’t hesitate to enlighten an ignorant driver about my rights – I just keep it civil).

What do you think? Is there a war with cyclists? Certainly not with the conservative cyclist.

 

 

 

Cycling and Women’s Rights: A Lesson for Conservatives?

I found this article in The Atlantic today: How the Bicycle Paved the Way for Women’s Rights.

“By the 1890s, America was totally obsessed with the bicycle—which by then looked pretty much like the ones we ride today. There were millions of bikes on the roads and a new culture built around the technology. People started “wheelmen” clubs and competed in races. They toured the country and compared tricks and stunts.

The craze was meaningful, especially, for women. Both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are credited with declaring that “woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle,” a line that was printed and reprinted in newspapers at the turn of the century. The bicycle took “old-fashioned, slow-going notions of the gentler sex,” as The Courier (Nebraska) reported in 1895, and replaced them with “some new woman, mounted on her steed of steel.” And it gave women a new level of transportation independence that perplexed newspaper columnists across the country.”

bike-women

The writer Adrienne LaFrance continues:

“The bicycle, as a new technology of its time, had become an enormous cultural and political force, and an emblem of women’s rights. “The woman on the wheel is altogether a novelty, and is essentially a product of the last decade of the century,” wrote The Columbian (Pennsylvania) newspaper in 1895, “she is riding to greater freedom, to a nearer equality with man, to the habit of taking care of herself, and to new views on the subject of clothes philosophy.”

What struck me about this passage was that the bicycle had become a political tool almost as soon as it was invented. In this case, it became a tool to advance the cause of women’s suffrage. LaFrance goes on to explain how women’s fashions changed as a result of cycling and how newspapers columnists and reporters reacted.  Read the whole thing: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/the-technology-craze-of-the-1890s-that-forever-changed-womens-rights/373535/

There is a lesson here for conservatives. As I stated in an earlier post, right now the bicycle is a political tool of the Left, a means to demonstrate your environmental and left-wing bona fides. But, just like the environment, the bicycle properly belongs to conservatives. Consider this closing passage from the article:

 “…I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have felt like—in an age when American women were still decades from the right to vote and inundated with men’s opinions about their ankles—for a woman to to go outside, hop on her bicycle, and ride as fast as she could wherever she wanted, leaving the rest of the world wondering where she might go. 

Indeed, “to ride as fast as she could wherever she wanted, leaving the rest of the world wondering where she might go”, no government regulations to hold her back; no bicycle paths to hem her in, to keep her “safe” from the buggies and Model Ts.  Just a woman and her bike and a sense of freedom and adventure.

1870velocipede_ferret

So what is the lesson here for conservatives? Consider that, in Toronto, only 35% of the cycling population is female, and I would surmise that most of those women tend to be left on the political and cultural spectrum. Conservatives need to make cycling attractive to conservative women by going back to the early days of cycling and appealing to the spirit of a “woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle”. In today’s context, that would be “conservative woman riding to political change on her bicycle”.  It’s a stretch, but come on ladies, let’s ride!!! You don’t need bike paths, provincial strategies or Olivia Chow politics to enjoy your bike. Just ride.

http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=caa5970aa08c1410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

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.

reagan-bike-wyman

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.

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

More on Cycle Paths or Tracks, whatever

Coincidentally, an editorial in this week’s Macleans magazine (http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-editorial-can-we-end-the-car-bike-detente/) asks the question: Can we end the car-bike détente?

I’m not sure the editors are using the word “détente” properly unless they are advocating for the ending of the easing of tensions? Does that mean they want things to get worse or better? I’m not sure from the headline. But the text suggests the latter so I’ll take them at their word.

There are some interesting stats here: “Academic research from Montreal, which boasts a well-developed 600-km system of bike paths, reveals separate cycle routes have a 28 per cent lower injury rate than comparable roads where bikes and cars are forced to compete for the same road space. Elsewhere in North America, the experience is similarly noteworthy. Between 1996 and 2005, 225 bicyclists died on New York roads in collisions with vehicles, but just one fatality occurred when the cyclist was in a marked bike lane.”

I wonder how many of the 225 cyclists were crazy couriers? I assure you couriers do not and will not use bike lanes. And how many pedestrians were killed by vehicles in New York? In 2013 alone, 286 pedestrians were killed in the Big Apple.  (http://www.villagevoice.com/2014-02-05/news/nyc-pedestrian-deaths/)

But this Calgary pilot looks promising. “Like many other big cities, Calgary is planning a major bike lane development in its downtown core, set to open next summer. And yet, this plan is not being presented as a fait accompli in favour of cyclists. Rather, it’s a one-year pilot program, after which the city will judge its success or failure against numerous performance indicators that take into account the interests of all parties.” Maybe Olivia Chow should not flippantly commit to constructing 200 more kilometres of cycle paths until the city takes into account the interests of all parties.

I guess now is a good time to show you what I drive when I’m not riding my bike:

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More pandering and nonsense from Olivia Chow

Mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow, announced on Friday that, if elected, she would oversee the construction of 200 additional kilometres of “on-road” bike lanes in Toronto over the next four years. I have yet to write my post on why I think cycling is conservative so I won’t give everything away here, but I will confirm that “bike lanes” on city streets are NOT conservative. If you’re not riding a bike now, a bike lane is not going to make a big difference. And if you are, then you don’t need a bike lane. The last thing this city needs are more ways for drivers to hate cyclists.

My position is this: A bike lane tends to make a rider feel entitled and complacent. You think you’re safe in the bike lane so you don’t pay as much attention. Remember there are others riders using the lane – slow riders and bad riders. I prefer that they just get out of the way. And dare anyone to step or drive in your precious bike lane – the outrage!! The best way to ride in the city is to use the lanes we already have on the major routes (e.g Bloor Street viaduct) which do not in any way impede traffic) and to learn to ride within the existing infrastructure. It’s not that hard and is very safe if you do it right.

But I also fell that it’s the left-leaning cyclists who tend to like bike lanes because they think more people will use use them. And they may be right. But I suspect only lefty cyclists will use them. So more bike lanes, means more lefty cyclists, which means more whining and more complaining, which means more bike lanes, which means more lefty cyclists. Aaaahhhh!

http://read.thestar.com/?origref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.ca%2F#!/article/53a4b114ec0691f05a0001fe-chow-vows-to-revive-2001-plan-for-on-street-bike-lanes

I can’t stand pompous liberal asses, so call me intolerant

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/06/venn-diagram-why-conservatives-hate-citi-bike.html

Here’s Dan Amira in New York Magazine (which of course is full of ads for luxury items and expensive New York real estate) making fun of conservatives for their dislike of the Citi Bike model. Of course he doesn’t mention the real reason for our dislike: it’s a money-losing business that requires the City of New York and other cities that had adopted the model, including Toronto, to subsidize it.

The trick of every liberal journalist (I know that’s almost redundant) is to find the most unlikable person to say the most outrageous thing about something liberals like then label that person a conservative. I guess it’s supposed to demonstrate that all conservatives think that way and that we are as dumb as posts.

Well, let’s dissect Mr. Amira’s stupid Venn Diagram (I know it’s satire but it still pisses me off).

Bloomburg: Conservatives don’t like Bloomburg because as mayor he was a nanny, plain and simple, and used government to infringe on people’s freedom and to hector those below him in the social strata. Sure, drinking a 12oz soda is not the best thing in the world but why is it the government’s business? Meanwhile, Mr. Bloomburg can fly around the world in his private jets but I can’t enjoy a 12oz soda.

Health: sure conservatives hate health and hate vegetables – what is that all about? Michelle Obama’s school lunch program, just like the silly healthy eating policy here in Ontario, doesn’t consider that  parents know what is best for their children and we don’t need the government telling us what to feed them.

Sharing: fact: conservatives give more to charity than liberals. Period. Why? Because liberals rely on the government to dole out benefits thus absolving liberals of responsibility. Bike share is fine as long as you don’t ask me to pay for it.

Environmental: protection of the environment is conservative – what I object to is that environmentalism is now a pseudo-religion, impervious to reason and rational disagreement. Global warming or climate change or climate disruption, whatever, is a case is point. There is no sense in trying to argue with a convert. Making cycling about the environment just pisses off people like me. I don’t ride for that reason. Oh, and where’s Bloomburg? Oh yeah, not riding a Citi Bike – he’s flying to France in his private jet.

Vaguely French: again, nothing wrong with the French – great food, great cycling – but the French do dumb things that piss off Americans and some Canadians like me. But France has some good conservatives too like Nicolas Sarkozy.

On a side note, I love how the liberal press characterize the recent swing in European politics. They call national socialist, anti-Semitic, anti-free trade, anti-capitalist parties like the National Front in France “far-right” which is designed of course to associate them with conservatives. But if you look carefully at the platforms of these parties (Danish People’s, Greece’s Syriza, Swedish Feminist Initiative), they are radical LEFT-WING parties with radical left-wing proposals.

Keep your Citi Bike – I have my own bike.