Nice Try, But No Cigar.

Background Reading


Yeah, this is a great way to travel two miles. (Photo: Simon Ingram)

Yeah, this is a great way to travel two miles. (Photo: Simon Ingram)


There is a game we play these days in America. It’s called ‘Poverty Ping Pong‘. It is most obvious when you find folks trying to get money for bicycle infrastructure by oddly enough including the one group they despise the most when approaching intersections, pedestrians.

If you want to see that dynamic on display just watch your favorite alleycat race on video. Bicycles cut through the crosswalks (as they avoid stopping at red lights) like hot knives through butter. Pedestrians are merely props in our game of ‘dodge-em‘. But we need their sheer numbers to make our case of ‘victimhood‘ when we stand before the governors and legislatures of states with cities large enough to attract the funds doled out by DC each year.

But what really sets the stage for our fakery is the fact that the most likely of pedestrians are the poor. We shed giant crocodile tears on cue whenever we need to sound more melodramatic. But the poor are something of an impediment to us because we can’t always get the bike infrastructure we desire unless it crosses through the neighborhoods they occupy.

So we hold our noses and ‘stand united with our black and brown siblings‘ just long enough for photo-ops and Slow Roll Rides. But here’s the thing, when the same city decides to close 50 schools in those same neighborhoods we are strangely silent.

We do this because we need the Mayor and City Council to keep giving us what we want. So we use the poor as something of a backdrop to our morality tale and come back only when they become useful again.

On The Helmet Issue They Show Promise

We have made up our minds that helmets are another piece in the puzzle of Automobile Industry Oppression. This notion is part of the Catechism of the Church of Urban Cycling. It is preached loudly from the pulpit of the Pope of Bicycle Heaven.

We are told that dressing in bright colors (as do police and highway personnel) is a bit like answering to ‘boy‘ when being asked for a refill of your water glass at a swanky restaurant.

Now the further exploitation of the poor is at hand because it fits into our personal agendas. We do not wish to wear helmets, lights, bright clothing or any other goddam thing that says we are willing to join society. So we have decided that anyone who is asking us to wear helmets is (by proxy) denying the freedom to bicycle to the poor.

This resonates with others in our community because we all know that a helmet that we are likely to buy costs close to $200. Heck the shorts and tops we wear weigh in at close to $300. And the shoes that we just have to have to ride bikes that cost well over $3,000 are more than $200 as well.

What is not on our radar is that cycling itself is expensive to the poor. We focus instead on the fact that it is far cheaper for a person to ride a bike than to drive a car. And that is in fact true. But bicycles have expenses that have to be dealt with as well.

But the poor do not shop where we shop.

There is a reason that stores like Walmart keep their employee wages so very low. They sell stuff that you or I might never buy, because we do not need to shop at that price point to find what we can afford.

So we learn a new lesson in Capitalism and Economics. The poor are not like us. At least not when it comes to ferreting out the best deals.

But The Red Light Camera Issue Reveals Our Hypocrisy

Now after we have done with drying the crocodile tears from our Liberal eyes over the supposed burden being places on ‘black and brown communities of the poor‘ we are suddenly faced with a question that needs answering.

We like to use the poor as ‘props‘. When we feel it is to our benefit to get what we want we invoke their suffering as our own. We want red light cameras.

When asked about them we demand that the poor be kept safe. And we explain that the location of these cameras (largely in black and brown neighborhoods of color) is chosen to keep their kids safe. Okay. Let’s go with that excuse.

Who pays those tickets? The very same parents of the kids we are trying to keep safe. But as with that lame argument about the price of helmets are we not taxing the very people we are allied with on the costs of helmets? Yes, we are.

Look the fact is that life is expensive for poor people. And in fact it is the poor who are largely forced to ride mass transit because that is the one meaningful option for someone trying to get around in society on cold winter days. Only the ‘elites‘ have the money to buy the expensive thermal clothing that allows you to ride in cold weather and avoid dying from hypothermia after sweating profusely.

  • Only the ‘elites‘ have a different bike to ride on nasty days so as to keep their ‘trendier‘ bikes clean.
  • Only the ‘elites‘ live in areas where the credit cards needed to rent a BikeShare bike are common enough that an individual can actually consider using them to pay for a ride.
  • Only the ‘elites‘ have enough bicycle helmets to allow them to carry a spare for use on a BikeShare bike.

Only the ‘elites‘ are comfortable enough with the power structure here in Chicago to see 50 schools close and to say nothing. But when the question of helmets comes up only then do they contact their journalist lapdogs to offer up excuses which involve the poor for things they personally do not wish to do.

So A Word To Those Who Use The Poor Like Props

Don’t. Stop being users of people for your own ends. It is that simple. It is something that should be beneath you.

You lost your chance at being honest brokers of the ‘save the poor‘ message when instead of lauding Volvo for offering their reflective spay for FREE you bit the hand that fed you. At the very least you should have welcomed such a gracious gift on behalf of the poor. But you have never, ever been a friend of the poor.

Your magazine is all about ‘elites‘ and their toys. To suddenly try to make the case that you are Progressives with a conscience is an affront to everything that movement stands for.

Shame on you!