Monday, 17 September 2012
Welcome to Pleasantville
"Whether it's to boost your fitness, health or bank balance, or as an environmental choice, taking up cycling could be one of the best decisions you ever make."
It never fails to piss me off when articles show up trying to convince us all that cycling can make each of us a happier, healthier kind of planet-saving super-human who falls in love with flowers and smiles all day. It's unrealistic utopian crap, and it has a conformist edge to it: it reminds me of the movie Pleasantville, or the Colonel Sanders scene in 'So I Married an Axe Murderer': "Oh, you're gonna buy my chicken!" and I want nothing to do with it!
I really wish bicycle advocates would stop trying to convince motorists to take up cycling. Let's face reality just for a couple of minutes here and admit to ourselves that motorists are perfectly happy being lazy unhealthy slobs with a polluting fetish. Let's admit that the idea that they will take up cycling for any of the reasons shown in the aforementioned article is nonsense. For one thing, many of the folks who drive everywhere are too goddamn unfit to even get onto a bike, let alone push the pedals. If they did somehow get their lard-asses on a bike, the bike would probably buckle under the weight. Most bikes (even touring bikes) are only rated to carry 300lbs.
The motorists who CAN somehow find the energy to drag what must be at least a semi-arteriosclerotic leg over a bike's top tube, and whose cardio-vascular systems are still in good enough shape so they don't collapse after a few pedal rotations, have their day of cycling in May (the optimistically - or perhaps cynically - titled 'Bike Month'). Those who turn out for this one-day bike love fest clearly have no intention of cycling even 2 days a year, never mind 365. If they did, there would have been a cycling revolution sometime in the last 56 annual 'Bike to Work Days', and the world would be full of fairly fit people who lived to pedal.
The general public's 'huge' commitment to green modes of transport can be seen in this year's World Car-Free Day, which takes place on Saturday! This year, since it falls on a weekend, there's no annoying need to commute without the car and people can be 'car-free' from the comfort of their couch. They don't have to lift a finger to feel they're saving the planet - and that's the way they like it. Even so, I predict the numbers of active participants will be anemic (many will probably only find out that they accidentally participated when they see a news article about it). Yet cycling advocates have this dream that the occasional holiday from the gas tank might encourage motorists to take up cycling all year? These advocates are living in a fantasy world.
I wish bike advocates would just leave off the proselytizing and leave motorists in peace. There is not going to be a sudden boom in cycling - not for another few years at least. Until gas prices hit $20/gallon a cycling revolution is just not going to happen - and it may not even happen then, because the specter of Peak Oil is already encouraging motorists to desperately seek alternate ways to power the mobile couches they call 'cars'.
The current cycling mode share in the US is at about 1% - it's been stuck there for 30 years. All the advocacy in the world isn't going to shift a single lard-belly's fat ass away from his local McDonalds drive-up window and onto a bicycle. Nor is it going to result in environmental, budgeting or health-related epiphanies for the rest of the non-cycling world. Expecting such a thing to happen is a particularly foolish pipe dream.