Particularly in America, the bicycle is emerging as a new conservative front in the culture wars. In May, Wall Street Journal commentator Dorothy Rabinowitz called bicyclists “the most important danger in the city”; in Colorado’s last governor’s election, a Republican candidate said a local bike-sharing program “could threaten our personal freedoms.” A columnist for the conservative Washington Times declared D.C. bike-sharing programs to be “broken-down socialism”; radio pundit Rush Limbaugh said he “won’t care” if his car door knocks over a cyclist.
Cyclists who have struggled for years to attract political attention might be surprised to hear themselves talked about as an insidious new social force…
But as health and government officials have begun peddling bicycles as healthy, environmentally responsible alternatives to cars, and cities and towns spend money on new bike infrastructure, conservatives have started to sense a new target. They have begun to deploy “the bike” as a bogeyman in political debates—cast in a role anywhere from physical annoyance to a genuine threat to the American way of life.
The most common target of critics has been the new city bike-share programs, an idea imported from Europe that has turned out to be wildly popular in Boston, New York, and elsewhere…
Her description of the bike lobby as an “all-powerful enterprise” might sound a little breathless, but is echoed elsewhere. Dan Maes, a Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2010, declared efforts to boost cycling to be “part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty.” When Rush Limbaugh suggested that injured bikers deserve what they get, it was because they’re victimizing auto drivers by forcing them to yield to others….
But as the commentators’ language suggests, the bike fight is really just another proxy battle in the American culture wars. Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt declared D.C.’s bike-sharing program to be favored by “commune enthusiasts.” The program’s red bikes, he wrote, weren’t suitable for manly men, only for “these so-called ‘metrosexual’ males everybody keeps talking about.”
As political ideas fracture along cultural lines, pundits and politicians are finding cyclists to be a convenient new “them” in the eternal us-them struggle. Even if conservatives don’t all agree that riders are metrosexuals, they “see bikers as obnoxious, rude hipsters,” says Sam Schwartz, former New York City traffic commissioner.
As I noted previously, I neither bike nor own a car
so fuck all you guys. Look, many bicyclists don’t follow the traffic rules, but many cars don’t follow them to the letter either–and a car is far more likely to kill me in a collision.
I’m really not getting this. So what if they don’t drive a car? If you don’t need one to get around, then you probably shouldn’t own one. It’s not like bike advocates are going to suburbs and fire bombing cars. They just want to get around a city without getting killed (just like this pedestrian). This would be funny, but it seems to have real political traction (boldface mine):
One political scientist found that the strongest predictor of whether someone voted for [Toronto Mayor Rob] Ford in the 2010 mayoral election was the person’s method of commuting: Car commuters were Ford voters; everyone else wasn’t…
But Ford reserves special venom for the menace called the bicycle. He is perhaps the most antibike politician in the world. In 2007, he told the Toronto City Council that roads were designed for only buses, cars, and trucks. If cyclists got killed on roads, “it’s their own fault at the end of the day,” he said. He compared biking on a city street to swimming with sharks—“sooner or later you’re going to get bitten.” He once summarized his views in City Hall succinctly: “Cyclists are a pain in the ass to the motorists.”
…In this respect, Rob Ford isn’t just a mess. He is a visionary—perhaps the first candidate to win an election in part by fanning public annoyance at those reckless, entitled, tax-and-spend bicycle riders. As new bike lanes make their slow incursions into downtown traffic patterns, it’s reasonable we can expect more such victories. It might seem frustrating for bike supporters, but there is one consolation: In politics, you get attacked because you matter.
What makes cities work is being pedestrian-friendly. Like it or not, even if you drive or bike, at some point, you’re walking somewhere. If nothing else, my experience in Boston is that bicycle lanes have slowed traffic down on Commonwealth Avenue, which makes the city safer for those who walk. This is going to lead to some really bad policy, and get people hurt.
Like I said, it’s the next front in the Conservative War on the Rest of Us, also known as the Culture Wars.