If There Were No ‘Cycling Community/Movement’

Background Reading


I Vacuum Copenhagen

I Vacuum Copenhagen

A rather interesting kerfuffle emerged on the ChainLink overnight. The central theme in the argument was about Chicago’s Critical Mass Ride. Is the a worthy stratagem to continue its use? Are there modifications to it that might make more sense. Do ‘in-your-face‘ confrontational strategies even work? Or do they delay the eventual resolution to issues?

Then someone mentioned the fact that all of the artifacts of the Urban Cycling Movement here in the United States are essentially non-existent in Bicycle Heaven. In fact Mikael Colville-Andersen has a poster which sums up the situation there. No one thinks about a ‘Cycling Community‘ as such.

The fact that you bicycle 1,200 KMs each year would not raise eyebrows at a cocktail party. Indeed no one would be interested in hearing about your ride into work this morning in cold temperatures or hard rain because everyone else did the same thing.

Do Cycling Activists Need Confrontation To ‘Feel Alive’?

Like many of the folks who are today’s heroine addicts they are ‘elites‘ who hail from suburban backgrounds. The question could be asked ‘what led them to even flirt with heroine addiction‘? I believe that lives lived under the stresses of poverty or a lack of purpose can lead to addiction.

In fact the overwhelming move to alcohol as the closest thing we have to a recreational drug these days is all about people not having enough purposeful activity to keep them stress free. Sports like running and jogging are seeing declining numbers. Americans are like that. They take a sport activity and engage in it long enough to get bored or for their aging bodies to decline the challenge and then ‘poof‘! Unfortunately cycling is one of those activities which can be challenging if done with purpose but frankly it is a cakewalk when compared with competitive running.

You cannot do marathons when you weigh 450 lbs. You can however ride 25 miles rather easily on a bicycle at that weight. And you can up your mileage rather easily to a full metric or even English century (i.e. 100 miles) over the course of a summer. The equivalent of this would be the Iron Man Competitions. Few cyclists would be fit enough to finish the running portion of such a race.

So what does a ‘millennial‘ do when faced with a life that is lacking purpose because all of the infrastructure needed has been built and there is no longer a distinction in being a year-round commuter?

What Would Change?

The first thing that would probably be obvious about the transformation of the U.S. to a Bicycle Heaven the overwhelming degree to which Cycle Tracks had eliminated the need for a daily dose of ‘Cycling Rage‘. Because these tracks would largely be segregated from normal traffic and allow two-way bicycle traffic with very limited interactions with cars, trucks and buses the Missed Connection Thread on the ChainLink would suddenly evaporate.

Indeed if it did exist it would have to mutate to a ‘bitch session‘ about this or that cyclist who had managed to stop stock still in the middle of the Cycle Track to change clothing or apply make-up or chat up a fellow cyclist. In fact the big no-no in that not too distant future might become the dreaded ‘texting while cycling‘.

None of these things is foreign to the current Bicycle Heaven. You can rather easily find photos of people doing just these things. But when there are no ‘us versus them‘ notions to kick around the impetus to rise up on your pompous principles dies as suddenly as it came. You are suddenly struck with the realization that the Bike The Drive experience of folks on bicycles behaving badly is now your daily routine. You never signed on for this.

Children Would Be Everywhere

Moms who ride their children to school would be doing so in such numbers that you might have to find an alternate route to avoid the wee ones on their training wheels or shifting around in cargo bike buckets. And you would not even be safe when heading out for luncheon. All sorts of school kids would be traveling on these cycle tracks for school outings and goodness how many of these ‘rug rats‘ would plague your daily commute during the summer months when they were off from school?

Grandparents would be herding their offsprings progeny back and forth to neighborhood swimming pools or helping them ride to the Downtown Area to visit museums. The idea of being able to move about the city at 16-20 MPH would evaporate. These cycle tracks would be wide enough to support bi-directional traffic so imagine that you are on the Chicago Lakefront Trail trying to do a time trial on the day that the whole of the city was watching the Chicago Air Show! Only this would be every day!

In fact every time a kid had to take a pee or have his nose wiped some adult would stop their bikes and attend to the chore at hand. You can bet your bottom dollar that unless there are plenty of park benches along these Cycle Tracks people are going to stop in the middle of the right-of-way to do whatever it is they have to do.

There will be bottlenecks outside the areas where bathrooms exist. There will most certainly be beverage and food vendors who have decided to ply their wares there as well. What about pedicabs? What about the small rental bicycle carts that use the current Chicago Lakefront Trail. And surely both Segways and electric vehicles of all sorts will be there as well.

In fact in the Netherlands troupes of seniors in electric wheelchairs routinely use these Cycle Tracks to get from their retirement homes to the Downtown Areas near them. Just imagine what that will feel like on those days when the Farmer’s Markets are in session?

Who Would You Bitch At Then?

Nobody. You my friend will have reached Nirvana without understanding the consequences. And there will be no one to complain to. After all you had the Bike The Drive experience staring you in the face. You already know how pleasant it is to walk down Michigan Avenue on a very busy weekend. Why would you think that moving that crowd to a Cycle Track would suddenly provide any faster traffic than automobiles had been experiencing?

Be prepared for the future. It is coming with any luck and I want to be there watching you attempt to cope with far worse bicycle traffic than you have ever encountered on the worst opening day of bicycle season to date. Good times!