How Can You Blog About Bikes at a Time Like This?

How anyone can blog about bikes these days astounds me. Obviously, bikes consume my life, as they should yours. If you live in the city, this city, then you know why. All bikes, all funs, at all times. The multiple cultures and avenues of the urban cycling multiverse know almost no bounds.

While this blog has focused on three main themes, there are occasional topical events that more loosely fall within the scope of Rebel Metropolis that make normal content seem esoteric by contrast. Yes, the safety and welfare of active transit users, especially cyclists, should be viewed a social justice issue. But in comparison to colonial massacres in Gaza or racist state violence against black communities in Ferguson, the issues facing people on bikes become largely irrelevant. In such times of crisis, how people can continue blogging such trivialities is frankly disturbing.

As it was so perfectly stated on Streetsblog LA last year after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, the entire concept of ‘livable streets‘ changes when you take it away from white bike/ped advocate culture and restore it to those literally fighting to survive in the face of lethal police violence on a daily basis:

In the protests and rallies across the country following the acquittal verdict, the street as public space has been a central part of this story. Trayvon Martin, returning to the home he was visiting, was followed, presumed suspicious, presumed guilty of something, with no evidence as such, for the very act of walking down the street. In much of the popular urbanist discourse the goal of ‘complete streets‘ is invoked, usually to denote particular design features or characteristics. But if there are people in our society who cannot even walk without presumed guilt, than I would contend that no street can be truly “complete”. No sidewalk, no bike lane, no ideal tree canopy, no parklet, can correct for social paranoia empowered by flawed legal institutions. The street is a social construct foremost.

This sentiment is one I’ve struggled with often. So many well-intentioned, intelligent active transit wonks are utterly blind where it concerns issues of race, class, and gender. As with so many things, the world of cycling is a white-male dominated one, and some effort has been made to correct this. But when the issue at hand is black teenagers literally being executed in the street, there’s no way I can keep focused on the niche of bike blogging. How others can, I do not know. Maybe their skin is thicker than mine.

Genuinely, I’d like to get back to focusing solely – or at least mostly – on the ideas of tactical urbanism, bicycles as a tool of social uprising, and the Right to the City movement as a non-life or death equation. Though as long as world events remain so galvanizing, that may prove difficult.

Until then, this madness continues.

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7 comments

  1. That this shit happens is terrible.

    What happens in these communities is terrible….

    I suspect that you chose such a prodding title to piss people off into reading it.

    Really a lot of bike advocates advocate for selfish reasons. We like biking.

    But we can’t forget about compassion because we are too busy jerking off over the awesome bike infrastructure in cophenhagen.

    We shouldn’t get tunnel vision on just bike stuff. We’re all in this together.

    1. But seriously you can’t truly think people can’t still enjoy a good pic of a heavy steel bike when a tragedy is going on.

      The world can be a shitty place… Maybe that jazz concert is what Obama needs right now. Sometimes we need a break.

      1. Of course not. What I’d like to see is the ability to occupy both fronts. The quote above from Streetfilms is a great example of taking a holistic view of bikes, livable streets, and race/class.

  2. I think you raise an important point but it’s too bad you frame it in such a divisive and negative way. I think there’s a much more unifying way to think about it: As a white male, nothing has given me a better understanding of the day-to-day experience of young African-American males, Muslims and other marginalized communities than the police harassment I’ve experienced as a bike commuter on the streets of New York City. Am I being tear-gassed and shot at? Nope. It’s not that bad. But I am getting stopped for bogus reasons, frisked and ticketed for nothing more than the fact that I’m riding a bicycle. So, I see a clear and direct link between the livable streets movement and the fight underway in Ferguson and even in fights far away, like the Arab Spring, which largely played out as a battle over urban public space. I think the more important and harder question is: How can these movements support and work with each other more effectively. Where are the points of unification and collaboration? What should people who care about this actually be doing beside tweeting about Obama’s bike fashion? Should we be tweeting about Ferguson instead? Is that really all that useful? I care. What can I do about it?

    1. What can yo do about it? First and foremost, stop pretending your own experiences in any way equate with those of POC. Nobody’s going to want to share ‘unity’ with some white dude claiming he’s also been victimized in the way black communities have.

  3. oh, Hart, this is a great provocation, well done… So much to say on this one that a blog comment would not do it justice, peace Jai, lone Gubbah in the mob.

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