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Utility Cycling Advocacy

Old 01-26-11, 09:59 AM
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Utility Cycling Advocacy

I wrote this paper last fall for an English class. I'm hoping I can get some feedback on it. Thanks. Link to paper.

My goal was to put a positive spin on the challenges Michigan utility cyclists face. I'm tired of the negative. The more negative we become, the more I feel like we'll be pushed to the fringes. Cycling is a positive thing to do, in so many ways and I'm hoping this can rekindle the love cyclists have for riding and help introduce more people to the joys of just getting on a bike. (I know, I'm asking a lot for a Comp 2 paper.)

Read it, critique it, pass it on, tear it down, do whatever you'd like. Thanks.
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Old 01-26-11, 12:16 PM
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UA, to be perfectly honest, the entire first paragraph needs to be rewritten - after reading it, I had no interest in reading further.

You say you want positive and are tired of the negative...but you start out with rants against the blight of lycra clad roadies.

You might consider dropping barhopping as an example of utility cycling.

Claiming that cycling is a viable alternative to driving and saying that people "should" take it up, should be a conclusion at the end of the piece, not part of the introduction where it seems pushy.

Finally, sentences like "Many even take cycling further than for mere recreation." should be examined and reprhased into something understandable like "For many, cycling is much more than just recreation - it is part of their way of life."

Consider starting out with an example of someone using their bike for a utilitarian purpose and having fun doing it - something that is interesting, gets their attention, sets the purpose of the article and sets a positive tone.
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Old 01-26-11, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by chipcom
UA, to be perfectly honest, the entire first paragraph needs to be rewritten - after reading it, I had no interest in reading further.

You say you want positive and are tired of the negative...but you start out with rants against the blight of lycra clad roadies.

You might consider dropping barhopping as an example of utility cycling.

Claiming that cycling is a viable alternative to driving and saying that people "should" take it up, should be a conclusion at the end of the piece, not part of the introduction where it seems pushy.

Finally, sentences like "Many even take cycling further than for mere recreation." should be examined and reprhased into something understandable like "For many, cycling is much more than just recreation - it is part of their way of life."

Consider starting out with an example of someone using their bike for a utilitarian purpose and having fun doing it - something that is interesting, gets their attention, sets the purpose of the article and sets a positive tone.
Great suggestions.
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Old 01-26-11, 12:53 PM
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Reading further, you might want to outline your key points, prioritize them, then ensure the content methodically addresses each point based on their priority. You seem to be jumping from point to point without a structure or plan.

For example, you start out mentioning that dirty, stinkin, no good Jamie icon roadie pond scum and why he is too big of a wussy to mount a rocket launcher on his bike to get a gallon of milk...cuz he's got no place to park his fragile carbon weight-weenie-mobile. I'd put that in the category of "reason's why people don't ride bikes for utility purposes", and continue on that vein, outlining each excuse or obstacle and including a work-around or solution for each. From there, you might jump to the next "category" and address in a similar way, concluding with your conclusions and a call to action.

I'm just throwing stuff out here...if they don't fit what you are trying to accomplish, cool, the main point I am trying to make is to use an outline to organize your content in a logical understandable manner.

Intro
- category 1
- point 1
- point 2
- category 2
- point 1
- point 2
summary - conclusions - call to action
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Old 01-26-11, 12:53 PM
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I'd like to help, but the link doesn't work.

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Old 01-26-11, 01:00 PM
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In your first paragraph, you mention utility cyclists for the first time before defining what it is.

'These utility cyclists use bicycles as transportation.'
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Old 01-26-11, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulH
I'd like to help, but the link doesn't work.

Paul
hmm, you aren't using Internet Exploder, are you?
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"Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey
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Old 01-26-11, 01:24 PM
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Yes. You would do well to drop the stereotype of two opposing groups. Contrasting the evil rodies against the virtuous utility cyclists does nothing to advance your goal of communicating the joys of getting out on a bike. Many cyclists enjoy using their bikes for both utility and recreation.

I try to enjoy myself regardless of which uniform I'm wearing. I wear jeans on trips to the bank, or when pulling a trailer to the grocery store. I wear lycra when I go out for a fun 50 mi ride, or when I put panniers on the bike and ride out for days at a time.

One additional slant is that both utility and recreational cyclists contribute to the economy. My wife and I spent a week credit card touring around your fine state last year. I was frequently in lycra, and I dropped a good piece of change in your motels and restaurants.
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Old 01-26-11, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Recycle
Yes. You would do well to drop the stereotype of two opposing groups. Contrasting the evil rodies against the virtuous utility cyclists does nothing to advance your goal of communicating the joys of getting out on a bike. Many cyclists enjoy using their bikes for both utility and recreation.

I try to enjoy myself regardless of which uniform I'm wearing. I wear jeans on trips to the bank, or when pulling a trailer to the grocery store. I wear lycra when I go out for a fun 50 mi ride, or when I put panniers on the bike and ride out for days at a time.

One additional slant is that both utility and recreational cyclists contribute to the economy. My wife and I spent a week credit card touring around your fine state last year. I was frequently in lycra, and I dropped a good piece of change in your motels and restaurants.
My intent was certainly not to contrast the two groups as I enjoy pretty much every type of riding situation and hate when others seem to think one type of riding is better. I was only trying to point out that while most (around here anyway) seem to view cyclists as only one kind, there are other types. I can see how that would be confusing, though, now that I type that out. I'll make the changes to the opening paragraph that chipcom suggested (when I have some more free time) to see if that clears up the paper.
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Old 01-26-11, 03:28 PM
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Humpf. I am a utility cyclist and wear lycra and bright colors. Blight I am.
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Old 01-26-11, 03:45 PM
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Blight I am
I take exception to that, sir!!
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Old 01-26-11, 06:24 PM
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I didn't like it at all. Sorry.

For one thing, I think you're playing into a false divide between "recreational" and "utility" cyclists. Personally, if someone is taking a bike from one bar to the next to enjoy a legal drug, I'd call that recreational and not utilitarian. If someone else is cycling 50 miles instead of driving to the gym, it can fall into either camp.

Why do most people who use bikes for things like commuting and groceries do it? I don't think it's that most of them have DUIs and can't drive. I take a bike instead of a car to and from work because cycling is fun and time is stretched too thin ... I enjoy cycling and found a way to make sure I can get some of it into my day.

The simple pleasure of a bike ride is a gateway drug.

Experience being on a bike and not dying is what convinces people that it's safe enough, not a mountain of statistics.
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Old 01-26-11, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by noisebeam
Humpf. I am a utility cyclist and wear lycra and bright colors. Blight I am.
well in your case, that goes without saying, Al
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Old 01-26-11, 06:55 PM
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Understood. Where there is blight there is opportunity
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Old 01-26-11, 07:05 PM
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I agree that starting out by slamming recreational cyclists is a bad idea. For one thing, it instantly alianates any recreational cyclists in your audience.

My next comment is that nothing in this paper would interest me in utility cycling. For example:

"...liberate congested cities, restore independence, promote good health, engender social responsibility, and even help repair the fragile net of social cohesion." Most people, I suspect, will read this line and, like me, think, "who cares?"

Why not something like "have you ever circled the block for twenty minutes waiting for a parking spot to open up?" Another one might be, "don't you hate it when you have to trudge all the way across a huge parking lot to get to a store?"

I'll try a few more:

Not being delayed by gridlock.
Not having your car rust out from all the salt and crap they dump on the roads.
Avoiding engine wear by not using your car on lots of short trips during which the engine never warms up.
Convenience -- hop on and go.
No windows to scrape ice off of in the morning when you are late for class/work.
You can defer shoveling out the driveway to a time when it is convenient.

In other words, utility cycling is about utility. One can view it as something you do because it makes your life easier (utility), not for health, or saving the planet, or other abstract junk.

Paul
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Old 01-26-11, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by UnsafeAlpine
My intent was certainly not to contrast the two groups as I enjoy pretty much every type of riding situation and hate when others seem to think one type of riding is better. I was only trying to point out that while most (around here anyway) seem to view cyclists as only one kind, there are other types. I can see how that would be confusing, though, now that I type that out. I'll make the changes to the opening paragraph that chipcom suggested (when I have some more free time) to see if that clears up the paper.
I got that when I first read the first couple of paragraphs. I think it's better to contrast it without mentioning what you assume the reader already thinks. Just talk about utility cycling and what it's like. If the reader already has a, almost certainly wrong, impression of road cycling they'll contrast that with your picture of utility cycling anyway. There's nothing more obnoxious than having an author draw my conclusions for me. I can do that on my own, especially for something as simple as bicycling.
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Old 01-28-11, 02:57 PM
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I think if you use a lot of the tips that chipcom pointed out you could improve it.

1) You seem to alienate cyclist into either one of two groups, with a bias towards "utility cyclist"
2) You do not define what a "utility cyclist" is and what differentiates it from other cyclist
3) The subject matter seems to jump from one point to another and I was not sure how your references substantiated your points. An outline would be helpful.
4) I finished reading it and and couldn't tell what your main point was or what you were trying to articulate.

First point would be what is "utility cyclist". Second point would be why would it be beneficial or how can it be done. Third point something along the lines of the problems associated with it. Fourth point along the lines of fixing those problems or prejudices. Sixth point a conclusion or things to consider.
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Old 01-29-11, 12:17 AM
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Old 01-29-11, 06:37 AM
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I'm very glad that you chose utility cycling as a topic. A+ for that. It's an important subject that needs to be covered more.

But, you lost me with the first sentence. I didn't read on after that. I think I choked on the word "them". Without defining what "them" are, and assuming that "we" have seen "them" when I as a reader don't know what you are talking about, lost my interest. You don't know my experience.

My high school humanities teacher had a good rule. "Relate to what you know and like." I would have tried to find an example of the utility cyclist that many people could relate to, or a situation. As a utility cyclist, many people comment to me about how I'm saving money or gas or staying in shape. In the winter they can't believe that I'm out riding in freezing weather. Those could be hooks.

You could have interviewed Roody who hangs out here on BikeForums. As a car-free grandfather living in Michigan, he'd be an interesting example.

I probably would have led with Mackinac Island. Most Michiganders know about it so they can relate. It shows that it can be done. Set it up as the ideal for your first point, then discuss a utility cyclist for your second, and then the environment they ride in, ie Michigan roads, drivers, and weather for your third point.

The Ghana reference threw me for a loop. While I understand the point you were trying to make, it's certainly a right hook when it all of a sudden pops up. And, most Americans do not consider Ghana as a place from which to derive examples of how we should live our lives. I might have looked back historically in Michigan for utility cyclists in Detroit in the 1890's before the car became big.

Truth is, both lycra-clad recreational cyclists and utility cyclists are pretty obscure to the majority of people. You have to spend time explaining both of them. Rather than compare and contrast them, I think you would have been better served just focusing on utility riders.

In a paper like this, I was taught, first summarize what you are going to say. Then have 3 points with 3 examples each, and then summarize what you have said. It's always been a pretty handy frame of reference for me.
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Old 01-29-11, 09:39 AM
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I pretty much agree with the whole thing. Like it or not there is a group of cyclist that seems to think that if you are not racing or training to race, you are not a cyclist. As this paper says there are any number of chores and rides anyone can do on a bike. More power to anyone that does. While I am in no way a "greenie"' using a bike for short trips just makes for common sense.
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Old 01-29-11, 12:54 PM
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I made no attempt to read the paper, even though I'm using Mozzila Firefox.

I would indeed make a "Negative" comment. It would be something to the effect that if a car hits a bike, and the bike is carrying 100, 250, 400 pounds of concrete, the car might get a lot of damage. Or in other words, "car versus bike? , once in a while the car loses".
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Old 02-04-11, 04:55 PM
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"...liberate congested cities, restore independence, promote good health, engender social responsibility, and even help repair the fragile net of social cohesion." Most people, I suspect, will read this line and, like me, think, "who cares?"

I think that there are plenty of people who care about all of the above listed items, but someone who only sees the bicycle as a tech gadget, a social conversation piece to brag about with their friends, a way to one-up their riding partners, or as a status symbol, is not going to care about the above listed items. For many folks the bicycle is much deeper than that. Each contrasting side is never going to convince the other that their reason is the best or real reason to cycle. Accepting every persons individual reason for riding a bicycle is what's important.


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