Don Quixote Would Love The Cycling Movement

Background Reading


Don Quixote Drawing © Pablo Picasso

Don Quixote Drawing
© Pablo Picasso

This weekend proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the intellectual capacity of the Cycling Movement is virtually non-existent. We reached for a headline that represents low-hanging intellectual fruit and completely missed the good stuff. It demonstrates to me that we are in an intellectual holding pattern not unlike the one being employed by the GOP. John Boehner sent out some mixed messages over the weekend.

John Avlon says that his remarks demonstrate “the essential illogic at the intersection of Republican policy and messaging“. The Alice In Wonderland logic goes like this:

If more tax revenue is collected from a lower tax rate, courtesy of closed loopholes, it is now defined as a tax hike by the conservatariat. This is topsy-turvy world, Grover’s paradise.

You can read the article on Boehner for yourself (see link above).

Meanwhile back in the Alice In Wonderland Zone of the Cycling Movement we were handed two chances to make our case for sustainable cycling. One of them was, as the author of the e-mail that set this entire thing off, “not a point worthy of even mentioning“. I agree. What I think was the shiny object that attracted the less well-developed minds of the Cycling Movement was the shiny object called bicycle taxation.

Our version of Alice in Wonderland thing goes something like this:

Automobiles are a less sustainable form of transportation and should be reduced in numbers. But automobiles help pay for the infrastructure improvements and repair via fuel taxes. If their numbers are drastically reduced so will be the taxable income needed to maintain the roadways. But cyclists do not want to have their taxes increased. But they do want the number of automobiles decreased.

The mathematics in this logic is what is non-sustainable. Cyclists will have to entertain some sort of taxation. John Kass is really onto something when he claims that our infrastructure costs will eventually have to come out of our pockets (at least to some degree). So out in Washington State a GOP State Representative says something apologetic like:

Ed Orcutt

Ed Orcutt


First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line of an e-mail which has caused so much concern within the bicycle community. It was over the top and I admit is not one which should enter into the conversation regarding bicycles.

Although I have always recognized that bicycling emits less carbon than cars, I see I did a poor job of indicating that within my e-mail. My point was that by not driving a car, a cyclist was not necessarily having a zero-carbon footprint. In looking back, it was not a point worthy of even mentioning so, again, I apologize – both for bringing it up and for the wording of the e-mail.

Second, please understand that I have not proposed, nor do I intend to propose, any tax – and certainly not a carbon tax – on bicyclists. There is little in the Democrat tax proposal that I support. However, the one aspect of the Democrat tax plan that has merit is their proposed $25.00 tax on the purchase of any bicycle $500.00 or more. I am willing to consider this because I’ve heard requests from members of the bicycle community that they want more money for bicycle infrastructure. The idea of bicyclists paying for some of the infrastructure they are using is one which merits consideration.

Since I have heard concerns about doing this via sales tax due to the impact on bicycle shops, I am very willing to work with the bicycle community to determine an appropriate way to enable bicyclists to pay for some of the bicycle-only lanes and overpasses. It is my intent to seek out your advocates in Olympia to see if there are other ways to accomplish this.

Again, I do apologize for the carbon line in the e-mail and any confusion it has created. I look forward to working on reasonable solutions to the problems cyclists are having with infrastructure.


While his choice of arguments regarding the CO2 output of cyclist as being an excuse for taxation, the point is still valid. Taxes will be in our future. We should embrace that fact as eagerly as we would pretty green lanes, because it means that we have gained a seat at the table. Being taxed for your infrastructure means that you have by definition a direct voice in how that money gets used.

But On To The Higher Hanging Fruit

What was far more interesting and potentially a game-changer was the announcement that Yahoo! was rescinding its “work from home” policy. Through my internet mailbox marches all kinds of foolishness on the carbon dioxide argument and virtually nothing and I mean not even a mention the “work from home” policy. I was dumbfounded. This is something that directly and negatively effects the Cycling Movement Algebra relating to fewer cars on the road and yet nothing. Clearly the Cycling Movement is filled with D-students who have found a cause in life by being the props in “photo ops” and not allowed to consider the weightier issues of sustainability until given the go-ahead by the High Priests of the Urban Church of Cycling.

It took Peter Cohan to help the brain dead folks in the Cycling Movement to understand that they might have missed:

Here are four reasons that Yahoo’s new policy is an epic fail:

1. More mediocre employees.

The tone of Reses’ memo is so upbeat that it’s clear Yahoo’s workforce is feeling demoralized. And why not? Mayer is Yahoo’s fifth CEO in four years. But as Bloomberg reports, Mayer “worked from her California home in October in the weeks following the birth of her first child.”

This hypocrisy will increase the self-imposed pressure on the best Yahoo employees who work at home to find jobs at companies that will accommodate their schedules. Only those telecommuters who can’t get jobs elsewhere will bend to Mayer’s will.

2. Higher employee stress and lower productivity.

Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, notes that people who work from home tend to have less stress and are more productive, partly because they don’t invest time and money in commuting and also because they can balance their personal and work lives.

So logic suggests that when Yahoo’s current at-home workers are required to drive into its offices each day, they’ll be more stressed out and less productive.

3. Higher fixed costs.

Unless Yahoo already has cubicles in place for all of its employees, ending its work-at-home policy means that shareholders will fork over more money for fixed costs such as real estate, telephones, and all the other costs required to house employees during the day.

For example, between 2005 and 2012, insurance company, Aetna, boosted from 9% to 47% the proportion of its workforce that telecommutes. Aetna cut its real estate costs by $78 million during that time, Aetna spokeswoman, Susan Millerick, told the Times.

While Yahoo is not as process-intensive as Aetna, logic suggests that Yahoo’s strategy of forcing employees to commute will yield higher real estate costs.

4. More traffic and air pollution.

Yahoo’s work-at-the-office policy will mean more people driving — that number could range from several hundred to many more who work one or two days a week from home. And more commuters mean more traffic and more air pollution.

This will not impose an additional cost on Yahoo shareholders — just all the other people who don’t like a slower commute and dirtier air.

The good news for Mayer is that Yahoo can reverse this bad idea with a simple mea culpa memo. For the benefit of Yahoo shareholders, employees, and communities let’s hope that happens soon.

It is in the fourth point that the meat of discussion is contained. So I ask again. Why was there nothing mentioned in all the silly e-mails that crossed my desk about this situation, which directly and immediately affects sustainable practice?

It is high time that cyclists and their handlers get their heads on straight. Enough of the “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” and instead taking a look at what could be a trend in business that does not necessarily bode well for a sustainable environment. What would be far better is for their to be an educational rally held at Yahoo! to help these folks understand their commuting options. And some of these folks are stay-at-home moms who will no doubt have to find a place for their kids to be during work hours. They folks need to know about things like cargo bikes. Where is the activity in the Cycling Movement for doing some truly worthwhile?