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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 09-06-07, 07:41 AM   #1
Elkhound
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I, bicycle.

Editorial on Twin Cities Critical Mass.
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Old 09-06-07, 07:51 AM   #2
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no one can read it unless they sign up
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Old 09-06-07, 08:21 AM   #3
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(emailed and then copied here)
I, bicycle
Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 09/04/2007 06:34:31 PM CDT


In 1958, Leonard E. Read, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, published a little essay titled "I, Pencil, My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read," a first-person account "written" by a Mongol 482 pencil fabricated by Eberhard Faber Pencil Co.

Read's purpose was illustrating the wonder of the free market. "Not a single person on the face of the earth knows how to make me," writes "Mongol." It then goes on to point out the innumerable antecedents that go into producing a pencil - raw materials from all over the world, some from countries and peoples who violently disagree with each other's politics and religion.

"None of the thousands of persons involved in producing the pencil performed his task because he wanted a pencil," Read writes. "Every time we go to the store and buy a pencil, we are exchanging a little bit of our services for the infinitesimal amount of services that each of thousands contributed toward producing the pencil."

We mention Read's work in conjunction with the incident in downtown Minneapolis on Friday that resulted in 19 arrests of bicyclists on a Critical Mass ride. Critical Mass rides to raise awareness of bicyclists - or protest the overuse of automobiles, depending on one's bias. In the Minneapolis incident, some 200 to 400 riders pedaled together on city streets, inevitably impeding traffic, creating a situation that resulted in a confrontation with police.

What does that have to do with Read's "I Pencil" essay?

We respect some of the ideas behind the Critical Mass philosophy: Indeed, riding a bike is better for the environment than driving a car; riding a bike is good exercise and contributes to good health; as a society we probably provide incentives for automobile use greater than for other forms of transportation. But the fact that bicycles are available to participants in the Critical Mass ride, and virtually everyone, at a very reasonable cost, like the production of a pencil, results from the labor of thousands of people having differing ambitions, desires and political philosophies, most of whom have no intention of building a bicycle.
Further, not all of the antecedents of bicycle production would necessarily pass moral muster with the Critical Mass folks. Bicycle production depends on mining the Earth's resources (not always in environmentally friendly ways) and using vast amounts of energy (not always clean). Building bicycles relies on the mobility of thousands of people driving automobiles to jobs in factories where bicycles are manufactured.

Indirectly, people involved in oil exploration, drilling, shipment and refining contribute to the process of building a bicycle (not to mention the plastic water bottles clamped to the frames). And all those people and thousands more with links to bicycle production go to work every day so they can buy things like suburban single-family homes with big yards and lots of internal combustion engine-powered toys in the garage, including big boats and SUVs to tow them - and bicycles.

The influence of low-wage foreign labor markets also affects the ability of Critical Mass participants to ride their bikes. If the same standards were applied to bicycle manufacturing as are applied to coffee, we suspect there'd be a lot more Critical Massers sitting on their duffs drinking "fair trade" coffee than pedaling bikes built in or made with components from developing nations.

Our point is simply this: Riding a bike when and where one can is a healthy alternative to jumping, without a second thought, into a 2,500-pound automobile. But doing so does not confer moral authority on bicyclists. It does not confer the right to impede traffic as a way to make a statement or ride up to the border of provocation of police and fellow citizens driving cars on city streets. At least not without bearing the consequences of their actions without complaint.

We don't know exactly what actually sparked the confrontation in Minneapolis between bicyclists and police. Nonetheless, we do find it more than a little ironic when Critical Mass, rather than educate, condemns and provokes the society that makes possible the individual choice to own and ride a bike. A bicycle is no less a wonder of the free market than is a pencil.
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Old 09-06-07, 08:27 PM   #4
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Now that is a silly article. All that masturbatory free market hoopla has nothing to do with Critical Mass. I don't know about the Critical Mass in Minnesota or wherever this one was held, but the one here in San Francisco is more a celebration of freedom and possibility. It's more of a fun thing to do than an overt political statement. If a bunch of people on bikes impede car traffic one night a month, big deal, get used to it. What about all those CARS impeding traffic every single day?

Anyway, here we go again with all the arguing about Critical Mass...
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Old 09-06-07, 08:33 PM   #5
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free market allows bicycles and cars! yay free market!

free market allows you to use bicycles that require 20 pounds of steel, steel is bad for the environment.

that is why you should use your free market choice to use a car that needs 2000 pounds of steel.

yay free market!

that is all.
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Old 09-06-07, 11:03 PM   #6
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I don't get it. This article points out a bunch of "downsides" and "harsh realities" of producing, owning, and operating a bicycle, but they all apply to autos several times more. What's the point?
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Old 09-06-07, 11:36 PM   #7
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Critical Mass rides to raise awareness of bicyclists - or protest the overuse of automobiles, depending on one's bias.
If the author of the article recognizes this as the purpose of Critical Mass, why are the arguments a philosophical defense of the free-market economy?
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Old 09-07-07, 09:14 AM   #8
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I don't get it. This article points out a bunch of "downsides" and "harsh realities" of producing, owning, and operating a bicycle, but they all apply to autos several times more. What's the point?
The point is that some cyclists get all self-righteous about how environmentally and politically pure they are for not using the eeeevil eeeevil!!!!!111!!! automobile. Not all of us, but a significantly-loud number of us. This article is a sort of "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" reminder that bicycles are not entirely pure either.
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Old 09-07-07, 11:05 AM   #9
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Could'nt agree more with this qoute:

"Our point is simply this: Riding a bike when and where one can is a healthy alternative to jumping, without a second thought, into a 2,500-pound automobile. But doing so does not confer moral authority on bicyclists. It does not confer the right to impede traffic as a way to make a statement or ride up to the border of provocation of police and fellow citizens driving cars on city streets. At least not without bearing the consequences of their actions without complaint."
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Old 09-07-07, 11:56 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
The point is that some cyclists get all self-righteous about how environmentally and politically pure they are for not using the eeeevil eeeevil!!!!!111!!! automobile. Not all of us, but a significantly-loud number of us. This article is a sort of "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" reminder that bicycles are not entirely pure either.
Oh yeah, those guys
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Old 09-11-07, 04:22 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
The point is that some cyclists get all self-righteous about how environmentally and politically pure they are for not using the eeeevil eeeevil!!!!!111!!! automobile. Not all of us, but a significantly-loud number of us. This article is a sort of "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" reminder that bicycles are not entirely pure either.
No matter how you slice it bikes have a smaller carbon footprint than cars. It's funny how touchy folks get about their car use. Who would care what a bunch of smelly kids said about your car-- unless in your heart of hearts you know it to be true.

Truth is not a numbers game. If CM where divinely inspired, they'd be prophets.

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Old 09-13-07, 10:59 AM   #12
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I wasn't aware that Critical Mass was protesting mining. Or anything, for that matter. It's just bikes on streets.
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Old 09-13-07, 11:01 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
It does not confer the right to impede traffic as a way to make a statement or ride up to the border of provocation of police and fellow citizens driving cars on city streets[/b]. At least not without bearing the consequences of their actions without complaint."
I'm delayed by cars far more often than they are delayed by me. What gives THEM the moral authority to cut in front of me and stop short? What gives THEM the moral authority to try to muscle around me at red lights? When will a cop ever punish a DRIVER for these things? It is the arrogance of autos on display once again. Big engines, little men.
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