When cycling culture goes too far

You can find the first five parts here, here, here, here and here.

Photo courtesy TripleC

My views on cycling after the break.

Bicycling is a favorite hobby of mine. I enjoy it. During the summer, I do it constantly. But I have my doubts about its acolytes. And no, it’s not just because they wear silly water bottle backpacks or tight spandex constantly. It’s because to many such people, cycling has become larger than life. It’s become a hobby taken up — or taken to the extreme — because it’s a fashionable hobby. And a strange way of life.

No, not all cyclists are like that. But those who are have gained a surprising amount of traction in recent years, perhaps most notably in New York City, where transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has pushed successfully for massive numbers of new bike paths and lanes. (This is where urbanism comes in.) Many, including New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, have praised Sadik-Khan. They point to all the positives of cycling — its positive affect on fitness, on the environment, etc. Fair points, but things aren’t that simple.

So what are the negatives to cycling — or, more specifically, to cycle-manic culture — aside from the spandex? The key thing is simply delusion. Delusion of the same sort I often complain about on here. I’m talking about the deluded idea that bicycling — or New Urbanism, or eating exclusively locally or any other ‘progressive’ fad — really addresses the serious issues its proponents claim it does in serious ways. The truth is that cycling will never take away our dependency on cars or save our environment. It just won’t. And I’ve had enough with self-righteous cycling preachers telling me that it will. Sadik-Khan’s push in New York is one I generally approve of, but at times she has gone too far in appeasing those who wish to place cyclists and their culture on a pedestal above everyone else. This has in fact led to a serious problem: cyclists ignoring traffic laws and causing accidents. This worshipful culture of idolization serves only to take away clear thinking and accountability, and take the focus off of real solutions to our problems.

Cycling is fun and healthy. Fun and healthy. Not heroic.

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4 thoughts on “When cycling culture goes too far

  1. [...] had some pretty harsh words yesterday for what I see as the often excessive and self-indulgent culture of cycling. My criticism [...]

  2. [...] time part VI has appeared. Why? Because the post formerly with this title, which can be found here, really isn’t about urbanism at all. I lost focus, and now I hope to correct that by redoing [...]

  3. [...] running a top-notch architecture commentary blog, Izzy Kornblatt recently disappointed me with a post condemning bike-friendly public policy: But those who are have gained a surprising [...]

  4. [...] running a top-notch architecture commentary blog, Izzy Kornblatt recently disappointed me with a post condemning bike-friendly public policy: But those who are have gained a surprising [...]

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