There’s been no shortage of head scratching in the mainstream media over the death of America’s love affair with the automobile. Most coverage attempts to link the sharp decline in motor vehicle use with a faltering economy, or claim there is no single conclusive reason car sales have dipped a staggering 23% over the last decade among 16-34 year olds.
Automotive industry executives and analysts like to pretend this is a short term trend, that when the economy ramps back up, Gen-Y will start having babies, move to the suburbs, and drive all over the damn place like it was 1959.
Yet this swift decline in car use precluded the economic crash, and even began before gas hit $4.00 a gallon. One out of every five prime time commercials is an ad for a car or SUV, and for good reason: people must be bombarded with advertising to believe in spending ten grand a year on an inefficient machine that spews poisonous exhaust and kills anyone it touches while moving at speeds it was designed for. Yet all this advertising is no longer getting the job done, and the ad execs know it.
As much as they’d like to deny the fact, there’s a real cultural shift happening, and it’s occurring in spite of the economy and in spite of the cost of gasoline. People are tired of sitting in gridlock, of breathing polluted air, of the anxiety and frustration induced by road rage, of watching governments doing nothing about global warming. They’re sick of car companies and their marketing lies, of seeing friends and loved ones maimed and killed by two-ton metal boxes racing down streets that were originally designed for people, not cars. And it is the youth that are sickest of all.
Young people are abandoning soul-deadening suburbs to enjoy car-free lives in the city. They’re taking transit, they’re riding bikes. So panicked is the auto-industry that they’ve made embarrassing attempts to brand transit and bikes as uncool. Such attempts have predictably back-fired. It’s cars that just ain’t cool any more. Bikes, however, straight up reek of sex appeal.
While the mainstream media is only just discovering the goings on within bicycle cultures here and abroad, the story of youth’s love affair with the bike is being revealed elsewhere. I’ve been browsing and sharing photographs of bike culture on Tumblr for years. These images reveal intimate and encouraging stories of our drift towards a future liberated from the automobile.
Below, in no particular order, is an assortment of some of my favorite photographs found on Tumblr that document the diversity and richness of the urban cycling movement. As I’ve written before, this isn’t a fad, this isn’t a trend. The bicycle rebellion is a conscious cultural shift away from machines of death. Instead, we’re reconnecting with one another and living lives of two-wheeled indulgence.
See you in the streets.