Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Cycling Community: An Inconsistent Ideal

Having been a member of the so called 'cycling community' for about six to seven years now, and having made good friends within it in the past two, I have recently been struck by the inconsistency with which the term is used. So strongly do i feel about the issue I have come to the conclusion that the term means nothing at all.

Bicycle Victoria, the local lobby group, who in the past few years has developed quite an influential voice in local and state politics, has the motto of: "More People Cycling, More Often". The emphasis is on using bikes for transport, fitness and and fun. As a maxim, I generally agree with what it espouses. However, all too often Bike Vic inundates itself in smugness and forgets the meaning, or more specifically, the vague nature of the motto by which it exists. The Bike Vic types strongly feel that bikes riders should be considered legitimate road users, and ostracise and attack those cyclists that break road rules. The rationale behind this behaviour is that these law breaking cyclists are "giving all cyclists a bad name", or, "undermining the cycling community".

Herein lies the fundamental flaw of the "Cycling Community" as well as Bike Vic's "More People Cycling, More Often" motto. The more a group that is bound by a certain activity expands, the more likely that it will not be united by a single philosophy. So, just as Bike Vic pushes for more cyclists, more often, the more likely that people will begin to ride that don't adhere to Bike Vic's ideal of what a cyclist should be.

By the same token, some people that ride bikes don't think of themselves as cyclists, but simply as 'people that ride a bike.' By definition then, the casual helmetless rider, who has no interest in bikes or the 'culture' that they entail, does not 'give cyclists a bad name', but is rather, totally removed from the argument. The conclusions drawn by the cyclist who resents him is a case of flawed premises. To resent certain cyclists doing what they themselves feel is right, but also wanting more cyclists on the road, is to demand something incoherent.

To demand that all cyclists should adhere to what a particular organisation feels a cyclist should be is not a healthy community but is, rather, a cult. Cyclists are not united by the vehicle they choose, just as drivers have no collective identity. There are people that like old cars, and fast cars, and tinkering with cars, just as there are racing cyclists, commuters and collectors of bikes, but there is no over arching element that unites us all.

Some might consider this a bad thing. Harry Barber, the President of Bike Victoria, would probably resent my idea that not all cyclists need be high vis wearing commuters.

Essentially, i agree with the idea that more cyclists cycling, more often, is a good idea. However, i reject the pick and choose attitude of those who espouse it. If you want every man and his dog riding a bike, you must accept the dude who has no interest in bike advocacy running the odd red on his shit Huffy. That is how things evolve. Eventually, Huffy man might buy a Trek, and become more interested and start liking the idea of the 'bike community'. Maybe he won't. He has a right to go either way without being told he is undermining a group he didn't know he was part of.

I continue to think of myself as part of a 'cycling community', but only out of convenience of phrase than any real significance. These people ride bikes. But i see them because i like them as people, rather than the their choice to ride bikes. In reality, a healthy community is a group that might be connected, or networked through a common factor, but is in fact extremely diverse. In this way ideas are challenged, argued over, re-thought, and revised, the end result hopefully being a more diverse, yet coherent, set of beliefs.

I'm all for people cycling more often. I think everyone should. I don't expect them to behave like i do, however. I also certainly don't expect to have things in common, or a binding philosophy, or world outlook as all of them.

To really evolve, and to become a cycling city, or nation, one has to allow the muppets ride, and learn. You also have to accept behaviour different to your own. Do this and you might just find a 'cycling community'.

1 comment:

  1. this is why we're so surprised when we find out your age HMC, you too fucking smart, nice and just all round together to be your age,

    awesome post