Sustainability 101 – Learning Shared Sacrifice

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The Religion That Is The Urban Cycling Movement

The Religion That Is The Urban Cycling Movement

The handwringing has begun amongst the Urban Cycling Crowd on the ChainLink Forum. But instead of ‘piling on‘ in a strictly cynical fashion, I am opting for trying to understand why the Liberal Left is so very often dysfunctional when it comes to ‘activism‘.

The conversation begins with:

Reply by Yasmeen 9 hours ago
That’s horrible. I hope there is a way to keep Bikes n Roses going.

Reply by Anne Alt 9 hours ago
Rauner didn’t waste any time going into Grinch mode. Boo! I hope that Bikes n Roses is able to survive.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 8 hours ago
Illinois’s budget needed a serious overhaul and some painful cuts had to happen, but watching the Rauner administration work has been sort of like watching the Hulk play Jenga.

Reply by Tom A.K. 7 hours ago
Bruce Rauner, Geeesh ! ! What a great governor ! He’s sure off to a great start ! I’m sure glad we all voted for him ! Right Eddie C ! Right !

Reply by Greg Valent 7 hours ago
At least he’s killing the Illiana Expressway. But, some of the gazillion dollars saved there could/should have gone to B&R.

Reply by Erik D S 5 hours ago
It’s not just that he should have supported cycling because cycling is nice. The man hates poor people.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 4 hours ago
Rauner’s approach appears to be to cut funding to everything pending his office’s review. While dramatic and attention grabbing, in the long run this is a poor way to cut costs because it is a very disruptive process. Large projects that are ultimately restarted will cost more because of the costs of stopping and restarting them. Small organizations Bikes n’ Roses may never recover, even if funding is restored. Key people will be forced to move on to other pursuits and momentum will be lost.

Rauner’s scorched earth approach is making already difficult cuts more painful than they have to be for sake of being seen as taking immeadiate action.

Reply by MLK 4 hours ago
Does anyone know the best route for donating to Bikes ‘n’ Roses? I’d much rather fund this than some guy’s potato salad..

Reply by Michael Young 3 hours ago
Contact Oscar.

Reply by Bob Kastigar 2 hours ago
Donating would be a good way to get it up and running again. They had a space going on Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park.

But what would we in the bicycling community do to sustain something like this, even if it could be re-started?


Liberal Leftactivism‘ seems to inherently be driven by ‘personalities‘. Take for instance this response in a thread on of all things:

You might not expect an answer like this but John Greenfield gave what is a definitive glimpse into how this movement functions when he wrote:

Reply by John Greenfield on January 31, 2015 at 1:10pm
If only the late Dr. Dan Kliman was still with us. He’d be the perfect guy to organize a bike protest.

This is a movement which requires a Messiah. People in it do not venture out past what they think others would allow. That is too bad. It means that only strong-willed charismatic individuals can ever get this so-called movement on the right track.

Midnight Marauders Poster

Midnight Marauders Poster

But beyond the idea of having monthly docent-led rides in various neighborhoods, Critical Mass Rides intended to recreate the traffic jams of the past week and engender hatred of cyclist, or stupid dangerous cavorts instigated by groups like the Midnight Marauders there are precious few activities that can create community. I don’t mean the kind of community that the KKK created when it was lynching ‘niggers‘ (which is essentially what the Urban Cycling Movement is now), but rather a community where folks understand the roles they can play and do not have to ask mindless questions like:

But what would we in the bicycling community do to sustain something like this, even if it could be re-started?

Evidently beyond knowing how to serve as ‘corkers‘ we are ill-equipped to build a sustainable community. As much as I like the concept behind Slow Roll, I am fearing that it will eventually be co-opted by this mindless nihilism that stymies the true activism of any movement.

Look At Activism Like This

If you are a group like Active Transportation Alliance and you see that the coffers are running dry what do you do? We the short answer is you start a write-in campaign followed by a beer drinking gathering. I know I bitch about this approach but frankly it is definitely going to draw out the rabble one way or another. Most so-called ‘activists‘ are people who in sixth grade were called down to the principal’s office more than once for writing mean things on bathroom walls.

Now in their late twenties and early thirties they have graduated to riding with the Midnight Marauders. Most of their organization expertise is limited to being part of the security patrol at the World Naked Bike Ride. Great! But how does one translate that experience into something that can keep a very tiny community afloat?

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Evidently we have all been sitting around with our thumbs up our asses waiting on City Hall to validate us. And if not them, then we are looking to our Messiah at CDOT for the same thing. We are paralyzed into inactivity because nobody has stepped forward to give us permission to think for ourselves. We are deathly afraid of losing our place in the hierarchy of a movement which is frankly gutless and adrift.

But you have seen nothing quite yet. There are dozens of Far Right hard-liners who are sick and tired of being told ‘they are on the wrong side of history‘. That tired line has been bandied about by everyone from POTUS to LAB. History unfortunately is a pendulum. I am certain that the KKK told their members the same story. I am certain that the Nazi Youth Groups and the Communist Party Faithful also heard the same story. In battle it basically comes out as ‘God Is On Our Side‘.

Think of the untold number of young men and women who went to their deaths believing their generals. Those guys whose command tent is as far behind the front lines as possible. They are always great at standing in front of the newly trained recruits and telling them that theirs is a ‘holy mission‘. I have no doubt whatsoever that ever ISIS recruit is willing to die with the certainty that ‘Allah is Great!‘ and their mission is holy.

My point here is that needing a Messiah is something that everyone shares. But the Early Christian Disciples spent many years feuding with one another following the crucifixion of their leader at the hands of the Romans. There is no doubt that since most of the early believers were Jews they were also feeling pretty betrayed by the Sanhedrin.

But after a period of time and some squabbling between the likes of Paul and Peter things were somewhat sorted out. So how does a small community like the Early Church become sustainable?

Moving Forward

First off the early church had to learn that they were people with a target on their backs. If they resided in Rome they were likely to suffer real and lasting persecution. But aside from that reality they learned that to survive they had to have an inbuilt ‘sense of community‘. The current Urban Cycling Movement lacks this in spades.

Why would I say something so cruel? Well, I did not make that up. Anytime you have to ask how will you be able to keep ‘Bikes-n-Roses‘ going you are clearly not thinking that an active thriving support group awaits their needs. And perhaps that is exactly what they are missing. Perhaps the Urban Cycling Movement can only respond to Critical Mass Rides. Those after all take virtually no planning and no realm commitment. And afterwards you can ride with your buddies for beers and feel smug while getting hammered.

But ‘real community‘ would never have allowed the elimination of funds be an obstacle. The Black Church in the Segregated South was seat of community for the Civil Rights Movement. And yes, they had their Messiah in Martin Luther King, Jr. But trust me when I tell you that if it were not for the Church Mothers of each congregation and the enduring sense of togetherness that they possessed long before the ‘activism‘ began the movement would never have succeeded.

The Urban Cycling Movement needs its equivalent of the Church Mothers. It needs a core set of values that go far beyond talking points on stupid things that seem to change from week to week. One week we are hearing that helmets are a conspiracy. The next we are battling over whether to wear bright clothing. Then the same Village Idiot who decided that helmets were a hoax decides to pass judgment on a recycling of the London Underground. And off we go clawing at one another over whether his words are true and whether it is or is not okay to run red lights and stop signs. Sheesh!

Talk about wasted cycles. Meanwhile we have no thriving bicycle shops where they should be if we indeed want to have ‘equity ‘. Instead we are off chasing yet another opportunity to ‘make a statement‘ or attend a photo-op for a new set of bike lanes that will eventually get a thumbs down from its users. Emotionally this movement is more akin to a junior high school mean girls club than just about anything else.

What kept the Civil Rights Movement focused was certain death. The society in which they lived was populated largely by the grandparents of the folks who are now swaggering members of this dysfunctional group called the Urban Cycling Movement. They have convinced themselves that getting tattoos and body piercings is somehow proof that they have moved beyond their forebears. But symbolic things like that are not evidence of a vibrant sustainable community.

What you need to guard against is the dissolution of what little you have because whether you know it or not literally half of your so-called membership is fickle. The moment they no longer feel that the press is waiting with bated breath to hear what they have to say, they will move on to whatever they perceive to be the next great cause. They people are serial activists.

Serial Activists never stay around long enough to get a group like ‘Bikes-n-Roses‘ on a firm footing. They function more like Rock Stars who notch up as many conquests as possible before leaving the next week on their cross-country tour. And in virtually every city some poor girl is left pregnant without benefit of financial support. And she never realizes how interchangeable she has been. Instead she tells anyone who will listen that the father of her child is so-and-so. And before long she realizes that now that the band is defunct and her son is 18 years of age few of the old gang even remember the bands name, let along who the drummer was that impregnated her.

Well that my friends is what is happening right now. Bike Shops are failing. Beer breweries are flourishing. And that says all you need to know. We value ‘beer‘, ‘free sex‘, being quoted by lazy journalists and freaking out the folks at work with tales of how harsh our ride into work was in subzero weather. And afterwards we wonder why more of them do not join us in cycle commuting.

Sustainability Require Shared Sacrifice

Long after Active Transportation Alliance has changed its name back to Chicago Bicycle Federation and has seen fit to restore the Boulevard Lakefront Tour there will be folks here in Chicago who will no longer remember when we painted bike lanes green. They will never have seen PVC bollards. And they will either have a sufficient number of viable bike shops to which they can bring their bikes or not. Long after the ‘last fool‘ has ponied up several million dollars for the privilege of emblazoning their logo on Divvy bikes and allowed it to die a peaceful death there will be people trying to get from the far southwest side to the Loop by bicycle. What exactly will they see?

At the rate at which we are going they will see very little. The folks who are running things now will have neared retirement and been unable to endure those long cold rides in the dead of winter on a bicycle. Most of the 20-somethings who are attending this years Auto Show will have purchased their second or third car and will be taking their children to look at colleges.

Bicycling will have become something that people used to do a lot of. But they movement stagnated because it would not or could not wrap its head about the fact that it need Church Mothers and some sort of strategy for sustainable growth. Believe me when I tell you that once Obama has left office the prospects of getting another Liberal into the White House is slim. The forces of the oligarchy know what I am talking about when I say that a movement needs to develop sustainability.

The Koch Brothers plan to leave a lot of money to causes they favor for just that purpose. What sort of parallel effort are the Liberal Left making? When all the folks my age who have for decades given to the Cycling Movement die out where will their replacements come from?

If you have to ask how to keep places like ‘Bikes-n-Roses‘ sustainable then tells me that we do not understand Capitalism or Activism. We are in essence on an extended weekend of sex, lies and rock-n-roll with little expectation of much beyond that. We are in essence in our junior high phase of development and there are no adults within hailing distance to consult.

Woe to any movement which cannot visualize how to feed and clothe itself.

Follow-Up Information : Good News!

An additional comment or two helps to brighten my day:

Reply by Bob Kastigar 4 hours ago
More on the story:

Reply by MLK 2 hours ago
It sounds like BNR had reached self-sufficiency, just before they got bumped out of their space. Per the DNAInfo article:
“Over the past two years, Bikes ‘n’ Roses has gradually been working toward self-sufficiency. Founded in 2011 as an after-school program under the umbrella of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council (now called Communities United), Bikes ‘n’ Roses had just reached the point where revenue from its repair services and retail sales could cover its expenses.”
Presumably the grant money would have helped BNR get back to a point of self sufficiency, so just patronizing the shop now and again should be enough to sustain.

Now the members of the Urban Cycling Community in Chicago need to make a special effort to see that these sorts of shops stay open and get the patronage they need and frankly deserve. Maybe those of you who know how to organize ‘bar nights‘ could help these shops do something similar. However my personal preference would be for ‘sticky buns and coffee nights‘.