Oh, how deep the depths of cycling ignorance within the minds of those who do not ride. Ask any bike advocate and they’ll likely agree, half the work of getting more people commuting via bicycle involves dispelling the myths non-riders have about bicycling. It doesn’t help when people in positions of power make asinine put-downs on bikes or the people who ride them.
Of course, that’s still what many with a national audience often do. This weekend, president Obama’s former senior advisor David Axelrod took to Twitter to voice his confusion over Chicago’s weather, bike share, and helmet use all in one single tweet, eliciting replies from pretty much every-damn-body.
Does any other city have these goofy rental bike stands-people riding w/out helmets, even in dead of winter-or is that unique to Chicago?
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) January 4, 2014
Likely, he meant to be somewhat humorous. But when a politician starts publicly ragging on anything relating to cycling, you know there’s gonna some major blowback. While varied in tone, the consensus was conclusive. Mr. Axelrod was out of his element.
— Joanna Oltman Smith (@jooltman) January 4, 2014
@davidaxelrod new york too. Get used to it, ancient car boy.
— MichaelPrenezIsbell (@MichaelIsbell) January 4, 2014
@davidaxelrod here in the Netherlands 16 million people (out of the 16 million) ride bicycles. All weather. Hardly ever with a helmet on.
— Kirsten Verdel (@locuta) January 4, 2014
— Brooklyn Spoke (@BrooklynSpoke) January 4, 2014
— Streetfilms (@Streetfilms) January 4, 2014
— Lead From Behind (@occbaystreet) January 5, 2014
— Alex Triantafilou (@ChairmanAlex) January 5, 2014
— en_la_bici (@en_la_bici) January 4, 2014
— Steven Vance (@stevevance) January 4, 2014
So yeah, Mr. Axelrod stepped in it but good. If in the year 2014 you still don’t understand the benefit of bicycles to an urban populace, just shout out your ignorance on Twitter. You’ll have an army of bike experts climbing over themselves to school you.
It’s a fact, bike share is ridiculously popular. Despite relentless hysteria from the NY Post that New York’s new Citibike program would be a bloody failure with hapless tourists being run down by cabbies, not a single serious injury has been reported in well over 5,000,000 trips totaling over 10 million miles. And this with no helmets - at least none required.
I’m not sure how much time Mr. Axelrod has spent in the mid-west, but it snows in the winter there. Sometimes it snows like fucking crazy. Riding your bike in the snow can be an arctic blast, or it can be the most infuriating thing you’ve ever done. It sort of depends on how comfortable you are on slippery surfaces, and whether or not you need to be somewhere in a hurry. When I lived car-free in Lansing, Michigan for five years, snow cycling was sheer joy.
As far as the ‘goofy’ remark, I’ll give the former senior Obama adviser the benefit of the doubt and assume he was commenting on Chicago’s particular model of shared Divvy bike, and not all bikes in general. Hopefully, he wasn’t referring to the riders themselves. Nobody’s that foolish, are they?
Divvy bikes are adorable.
Personally, I think the Divvy bike is one of the sexier bike share designs, especially with its coral blue paint job and sharrow-inspired logo on the rear wrap-around fender. Certainly, no bike share bike is constructed to be especially aerodynamic, but that’s not the point. These bikes are built for utility, offering an upright, comfortable, not particularly fast cruise about town. Seriously, how could anyone look goofy on one of these sweet rides?
Cities are becoming denser, their populations are growing, and there just isn’t space for more automobiles. The American love affair with the car is dying. The youth prefer public transport and their bikes, and this trend is solidifying into a permanent culture. While people like Axelrod probably think of Lance Armstrong when they hear the word ‘cyclist’, the reality is that American cities are becoming more like Amsterdam every day, and the mighty bicycle is a major catalyst for this metamorphosis. Any politico not championing this change might want to consider a new career path.
Does David Axelrod actually not ride bikes? Most likely. But after this weekend he’s got several thousand followers who certainly would enjoy seeing him start.
Happy 2014!! See you in the streets.
Thumbnail image courtesy Regan Scott.