We should be asking ourselves: how are the official efforts at Bicycle Advocacy being blunted ... or contradicted by the behavior of Riders on the street, or by the general trend of the Bicycle Culture which we, ourselves, have had a hand in creating.
When we look at the cultural interface between Bicycle Advocacy and Car Dependence the problem becomes clear. We don't seem to have that much to offer a culture that considers the cost of gasoline to be the price of living, and an "athletic" afternoon to be chasing a small white ball in an electric cart and hitting the aforementioned ball from time to time.
Basically what the Bicycle Culture is offering the rest of America is: Spandex ... Pain ... and Arrested Development.
What intimdates newcomers to the practice of Riding?
- The perceived initial cost of participating: "Looks like I'll need to shell out 3 grand for something in carbon fiber...." (financial Pain);
- Self-consciousness about squeezing into the "required" riding uniform (the Pain of embarrassment);
- The hostility of the PseudoRacers: the traveling treehouse clubs who hunt in packs, declare themselves exempt from all traffic laws, and treat everyone else like dirt (Pain and Spandex are part of the price of admission);
- And the whole mythology of the "serious rider" - riding fixed gear (knee Pain) - or riding ridiculous distances (the Exponential Cult of Pain).
Turning to the periodical shelf, there's not much good news. Since I enjoy both motorized and self-propelled 2-wheeled transport I read periodicals for both.
The motorcycle mags emphasize freedom, assertiveness, rebellion, and chicks who aren't wearing much. Who wouldn't want to be a part of this?
Their cousins, the bicycle mags (with the notable exception of ADVENTURE CYCLING, which has pictures of actual people who seem to be actually having a good time) talk about Pain, and Endurance, and Pain, and Training, and Sweat, and Hurt, and Suffering, and various grossly overpriced titantium gadgets, and bicycle seats that look like they might be illegal under the international rules against torture ... and did I mention Pain? There are also profiles of various pint-sized RealRacers (the photographs show them in Pain). But, with all the talk about doping, who still believes that professional racing is not just an exercise in organized cheating ... who's got the best doctor ... who's got the best lawyers?
And what does the Tour de Hypo have to do with anything anyway? What does NASCAR have to do with the way I drive my car around town?
Good thing I didn't believe BICYCLING magazine about bicycle commuting. Their articles emphasize that commuting is only important as a way to Train: in other words, another window of opportunity for Agony ... another daily chance for public Martyrdom ... and to show off how great my butt looks in shiny fabric. In their rush to present another prescription for Suffering a la Spandex, they missed the whole enjoyment of the practice.
Turning to Arrested Development, take a moment to fire up a DVD of THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN - and take a look at Steve Carell getting ready for work: sock pulled up over his pants leg, handlebars as high as his chin, a look on his face like he just had a lobotomy. The message of this movie: this dork collects toys, and uses a toy - a bicycle - to get around. When Carell has sex - and finally grows up - what will he do? He'll buy a car.
If this is the alternative to the sneering PseudoRacers with their butts in the air, then I guess I'll go back to the racers and the Cult of Pain.
What's missing from our Advocacy effort?
- Simplicity. An integral part of the Beauty of Riding - you don't need to have a pit crew ... you don't need to wear special clothes.
- Economy. Rebellion against the consumer culture of debt and despair.
- Joy. The element which is missing from all Bicycle Advocacy ... the idea that, in Riding, you can consistently experience Joy in a world where so much advertising promises Joy, and so few experiences actually deliver it.
Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.