Tuesday, June 08, 2010

...and a bad argument against cyclists

Jason Henderson wrote an alternet article making the reasonable enough point that driving cars creates a demand for oil, the demand creates the impetus to drill, the drilling leads to disasters such as the one currently in the Gulf og Mexico. He proposes, as a solution, that we should accept driving as an activity fundamentally at odds with the environment and the values that progressive people hold. His prescription: don't drive. Not even a "green" car such as a Prius.

The comments attracted a set of fascinating defences of the car and denunciations of bicycle culture. One idea stands out: we shouldn't cycle, because "bohemian" cyclists oppress the "true" working class. Consider the following:
I see "progressives" like Jason Henderson every day. People who ride their bicycles inside highly electrified cities benefiting from wealth and privilege that made high education possible, while others in the vast service industry grew and shipped their food, made and shipped their clothing, maintained the day-to-day infrastructure working long hours for pennies and built the gigantic buildings required for a privileged few to have sufficient free time to pursue being "progressive" by cycling to a university.
It would take too much time to unpack all of this for one post, so I will focus on the central fallacy here: the assumption that bohemians in general, and perhaps cyclists in particular, partake of some privilege that renders them (us) at odds with some vague notion of an "authentic" working class. That, in turn, depends on a single (false) argument: that cycling necessarily requires so much time that only those people with both flexible and undemanding work schedules can manage to use a bicycle for practical purposes. I know from experience that at least in an urban centre, where most people now live, bicycles provide a more efficient way to get around. Whether from an economic, resource, or time perspective, the bicycle simply works better in the city than the car does.

Cycling requires organization and a measure of physical fitness. It does not require a "bohemian" or academic work schedule. Those people who want to suggest they drive in order to express solidarity with working people will have to think up a better excuse.

No comments: