Practical Advice for Transportation Cycling

Sometimes, all that matters is getting from Point A to Point B as cheaply, safely and efficiently as possible. You don't need a fast bike, you don't need a pretty bike, and most of all you don't need an expensive bike, you just need one that works.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Opinionated Blogger Friday: The Politics of Cycling

In an ideal world, the act of riding a bicycle to work would be nothing more than the the simple act of riding a bicycle to work. In the imperfect world we have to work with, even common-sense transportation attracts some heavy ideological baggage.

The current feeling is that riding a bike other than for recreation or for sport is a strictly Liberal pursuit.  Reasons for this include, but aren't limited to:

  • It's seen as a pro-environmental action (never mind that, to my thinking, conservation of natural resources should be considered a conservative value, that's another argument entirely). 
  • It's seen as a rejection of major automotive and petroleum interests, as sending an anti-corporate message with your commute.
  • It can be seen as an anti-materialistic action, favoring simplicity over comfort and consumption.
  • Bicycle advocates push for "big government" action, such as putting in bike lanes and bike racks.
  • Poor people do it. 
Now, most of these things do lend themselves pretty well to a stereotypically left-leaning viewpoint. But quite a few bicycle commuters don't actually worry too much about most of these things, they just think riding a bike is the best way to get where they're going. And even if they do subscribe to some or all of the above concepts, a lot of cyclists might have other ideals which put them on the Right side of the aisle. Pigeonholing someone politically simply based on how they get from one place to another is, if you ask me, a bit stupid. 

If you ask me, once you take the environmentalism and advocacy aspects of bicycle commuting away, you're left with a very different story. 
  • Bicycles require very little in the way of infrastructure compared to other forms of transportation, and put much less strain on publicly-owned infrastructure than motor vehicles, causing less government money to be spent on upkeep. 
  • Bicycles do not require special licensing or training, traditionally your family teaches you to ride a bike.
  • Able-bodied people of any age, race or gender can ride a bicycle. Bikes are available which will work for most types individuals with special needs. 
  • Bicycles can be easily be modified to suit your personal needs, taste and riding style. 
  • Bicycles are available at a wide range of prices. If you're poor, you can still own a working bicycle, if you're wealthy, you can own a really nice bicycle, or lots of bicycles. 
  • It's fairly easy to repair your own bicycle, with tools you can buy readily just about anywhere. 
  • If you crash your bicycle, you are likely to injure yourself, but pose little threat to others compared to a car, bus or airplane. 
  • While many bicycle parts and frames are made overseas, some are made domestically, and operating a bicycle doesn't require a steady supply of fuel from a foreign country. 
  • Bicycle commuting promotes physical fitness and helps prevent some of the diseases which would otherwise place a strain on the public health system. 
  • How fast or slow you ride is entirely dependent on you. There are no government programs to make you a faster rider, no corporation is going to make you a better commuter. Nobody can pedal your bicycle but you. 

That's right. Bicycles are Libertarians. 

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