Taking Off The ‘Kid Gloves’ – Speaking Plainly

Background Reading

Summary

Stop On Red Light Warning

Stop On Red Light Warning

The 2013 National Bike Summit is in full swing. I noticed a well made PSA delivered by AAA which was worth seeing. This video was in stark contrast to some of the propaganda put out by various organizations here in Chicago. We seem to treat automobiles with far less respect than they do us, if the aforementioned PSA is any indicator. Why exactly is that?

It probably is due to the nature of our internal relationships with one another as cyclists. I came across a poster that really should not have been made. There really is no reason that “grownups” need to cajole one another into righteous behavior, but there it is. We are peppered with “true outlaws” who masquerade as ethics columnists while openly declaring that behaving illegally can be done in an ethical manner.

But what really put the cherry on top of a very sad banana split was some of the feedback from the good folks who came to tell us what we sound like to those outside the Church of Urban Cycling. Now if you are a Trained Seal you will have a near compulsion to stop reading at this point. But if you still have a few brain cells that have not been committed to the Cause and are able to make judgments on your own then listen up.

What Douglas Meyer Had To Tell Us

But Meyer’s research also revealed challenges — and opportunities. Other top findings included:

  • Bicycle advocates as “sore winners:” The interviews revealed that federal lawmakers generally believe bicycle advocates don’t get just how successful we were in the passage of the new transportation law, MAP-21. While opponents aimed to eliminate all funding and eligibility for bicycling, Congressional allies and grassroots mobilization kept biking in the bill. By spreading the message that MAP-21 was a loss for bicycling, has painted us as “sore winners” to many on Capitol Hill.
  • Dedicated funding is not the end all, be all: While many in bicycle advocacy have pushed hard for dedicated funding streams in MAP-21 and other federal legislation, many on Capitol Hill don’t take well to the idea. They say the funding trend is away from the federal level, and has moved toward local and state decision makers.
  • The future is a multi-modal transportation system; embrace it and use it: Rather than pitching Congress on the “bicycling movement,” staffers felt advocates would be more successful if be we frame biking as a key cog in a larger multi-modal transportation system.
  • Asking for a “fair share for safety” doesn’t resonate: To lawmakers, asking strictly for funding sounds like a money grab. Asking for safer streets through performance measures — or a national goal — is far more compelling. After all, bicyclists are a “cheap date,” and provide tremendous return on little investment.

Click here for Meyer’s full presentation. And stay tuned for more from the Summit…

What It All Sounds Like Without The Polite Filter In Place

Here is what he really meant but was too polite to say:

  • Cyclists are ungrateful given the numbers they command. We represent such a small fraction of total transportation pie that we should have been singing praises with what we got. But the folks who masquerade as cycling advocates are paid to work us into a frenzy of the least little thing. And we according respond to every attempt to snap ourselves back into some realistic universe.
  • Money is going to be distributed for the foreseeable future at the local level. That is a big win for the Libertarians in our midst. And because the Libertarian way of approaching funding is catching on it means that usage taxation is going to be quite popular. That in essence means that cyclists should get used to the idea of being taxed, assessed, fined call it what you will for the privilege of using roadways. If you have ever ridden some of the pay as you go trails in Wisconsin then you know what I mean.
  • Cyclists are navel gazers to the level of absurdity. The universe does not revolve around cycling. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are not going to strap on winter gear and ride the 15-25 miles into work, just to save the planet. Many will want to find mass transportation alternatives that are cheap enough to be inviting. But frankly with every single transit authority having raised its fares, cars are looking less onerous as an expense. So get used to it.
  • We have been “slinging hash” about the safety factor that is supposed to be tied to installing bicycle infrastructure. The bottom line is going to be that municipalities are not going to be as gullible as your average urban cyclist regarding the vaunted safety benefits of protected bike lanes. They are instead going to require some hard data. Then and only then will big expenditures be allowed.

Every time I listen to a group of cyclists ranting about being taxed during discussion on the Chicago ChainLink Forum I find myself visualizing a group of “trust fund babies” sitting about on leather sofas grousing about the fact that having turned 21 years of age and been given access to their trust funds, their lawyers have made it clear that the money coming in monthly installments is expected to not only support their drug habits, but also to provide for their transportation, food and clothing as well. This as one of them puts it is simply not acceptable.

If cyclists sound like that to another cyclist how much worse must their image be to someone who cannot afford the expensive clothing and equipment outlays that cycling represents? I love the looks of a Chrome messenger bag. But frankly I know that few folks who really ought to be considering bicycle travel could afford one. Take for instance the very hip clothing line that Giro has just released. Nice looking stuff and much like the look I use. But the plain fact is most inner city youth would have a very hard time buying a full outfit at these prices.

Cycling no matter how we try to disguise it is frankly for rich white kids who want to save the world astride a fixie bike devoid of brakes and tricked out with carbon fiber wheels. It galls people from the inner city to see this relative affluence and listed to the mouth-ings of solidarity with the 99% at an Occupy Wall Street Rally. Again take a look at the prices from Giro.