Is the bicycle a political object?

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horizon
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Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby horizon » 13 May 2015, 5:37pm

I think it is: I think it's a symbol of a view of life, of society and humanity. It becomes political when it extends from being merely a plaything to a means of transport, a way of respecting Nature, a less selfish way of getting around and a more sociable way of relating to one's fellow human beings. Since it therefore represents a more caring attitude to Nature and society and these are values that are reflected politically, I would propose that the bicycle is a political object and riding a bicycle a political statement.

Naturally I would like to hear your views.
When the pestilence strikes from the East, go far and breathe the cold air deeply. Ignore the sage, stay not indoors. Ho Ri Zon 12th Century Chinese philosopher

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al_yrpal
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby al_yrpal » 13 May 2015, 5:41pm

I think you just policitised it :lol:

In some people yes, its just another lifestyle… in the majority, no… (beards, sandals and bents spring to mind)

Al

… and, it depends how hilly your surroundings are.
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. What do you do to make a difference?

irc
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby irc » 13 May 2015, 5:45pm

No. A bike is a toy and a tool. Most people ride their bikes for fun or transport not as a political statement.


blackbike
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby blackbike » 13 May 2015, 8:38pm

I tend to steer clear of people who see cycling as a political statement.

They usually don't do that much cycling and have plenty of political statements to make, often involving veganism, boycotting Israel and other causes popular with a certain type of person.

Nothing wrong with that, just not for me.

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bovlomov
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby bovlomov » 13 May 2015, 8:42pm

A bicycle is a politically shaped object.
EDIT: Or a political shaped object?

Valbrona
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Valbrona » 14 May 2015, 2:36am

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Last edited by Valbrona on 14 May 2015, 12:14pm, edited 1 time in total.
I should coco.

jgurney
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby jgurney » 14 May 2015, 11:02am

Do you mean

'Is there political debate over transport policy relating to bicycles'

or

'Is the decision to be or not be a cyclist a political one?'

If the first, yes, certainly, if the second, it can be, partly depending on how widely we define the scope of politics.
Deciding whether a decision to cycle is influenced by political attitudes is difficult enough, deciding whether a decision not to cycle is so influenced would be even more complicated.

For example if a positive attitude towards cycling and railways was partly shaped by a perception that both devices were British inventions and were in use in the Victorian period (and having a positive attitude towards both of those) should that be regarded as a personal idiosyncrasy or as an expression of patriotism and conservatism?

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horizon
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby horizon » 14 May 2015, 11:17am

jgurney wrote:Do you mean

'Is there political debate over transport policy relating to bicycles'

or

'Is the decision to be or not be a cyclist a political one?'


Well, primarily the latter though not a conscious one necessarily. Because the bicycle is representative (i.e. a symbol) of a particular way of thinking, as an object it may be political (with a small "p" for now). It doesn't mean that cyclists see it that way (though some may) but it comes to be seen that way. It can stand for a way of thinking, a set of beliefs and a political stance. When Caroline Lucas went round Brighton on a tandem to do her loud-hailing, it wasn't because you can't hire a Transit van in the town. If the bicycle becomes entangled in a set of political choices (over say road building, action on pollution etc), then it becomes a political symbol whether its riders like it or not, IMV.
When the pestilence strikes from the East, go far and breathe the cold air deeply. Ignore the sage, stay not indoors. Ho Ri Zon 12th Century Chinese philosopher

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bovlomov
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby bovlomov » 14 May 2015, 11:28am

horizon wrote: When Caroline Lucas went round Brighton on a tandem to do her loud-hailing, it wasn't because you can't hire a Transit van in the town.

Perhaps she was aware that the bicycle was an instrument of women's liberation, and as such it would be associated with radicalism rather than conservatism (small c).

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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Bicycler » 14 May 2015, 11:57am

All that Horizon has said could equally apply to those who choose to walk. In fact walking is greener still. Yet walking is viewed different to cycling. No doubt this is largely because it is still common to walk, whereas those who cycle are a recognisable 'out-group'. The question is does this reputation come from without or within? Is it a convenient label to stick on cyclists or is it a case of cycling attracting a lot of people keen to show their eco credentials (I think it's a bit of both).

I think the view of a bicycle as a political object is potentially damaging. As long as cycling is viewed as the transport choice of the sanctimonious tree-hugging lefty eco-warrior it presents an effective barrier to an everyday cycling culture. Cycling is condemned to be a niche activity until it is viewed as a normal and sensible transport choice for everyone like driving or walking. When questions of forums asking about the political status of bicycles are as ridiculous as those asking about the political status of feet :wink:
Last edited by Bicycler on 14 May 2015, 11:58am, edited 1 time in total.

Psamathe
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Psamathe » 14 May 2015, 11:58am

jgurney wrote:Do you mean

'Is there political debate over transport policy relating to bicycles'

or

'Is the decision to be or not be a cyclist a political one?'

And, "is the bicycle used as a political object?". We seem to see quite a few Westminster politicians prominently using their bicycles in front of TV cameras yet when it comes to supporting and pushing for better safer cycling they sort of revert to the god of profit before lives. So they are keen to give the appearance of using their bikes but do little to actually help cycling become more commonplace, instead driving forward policies that favour cars, favour fossil fuels, etc., ignore climate change threats, etc. So used as part of a political PR machine: Yes.

Ian

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horizon
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby horizon » 14 May 2015, 12:05pm

Bicycler wrote:
I think the view of a bicycle as a political object is potentially damaging.


Unless of course you were looking for a political symbol - as Psamathe suggests Boris and Cameron were. In which case the bicycle is very useful. I personally think the bicycle is loaded with symbolism - which is why it is now used in so much commercial advertising: you can establish your (non) Green credentiais by associating in some way with the bicycle, as Land Rover does for example.
When the pestilence strikes from the East, go far and breathe the cold air deeply. Ignore the sage, stay not indoors. Ho Ri Zon 12th Century Chinese philosopher

Bicycler
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Bicycler » 14 May 2015, 12:13pm

To my mind, politicians riding bikes is the right kind of symbolism for the promotion of cycling as a transport choice. Other barriers to everyday cycling which have to be overcome are the ideas that cycling is for those who can't afford a car and that it is a sport for fit macho types requiring dressing up in lycra. No, it doesn't necessarily translate to better policy, but politicians may, for their own self-serving reasons, be doing cycling a favour when they are seen cycling to work. In any case we are always moaning that too many drivers have never cycled in their adult lives and so don't understand our concerns. All else being equal, I'd rather have politicians who had cycle commuted than ones who hadn't.

Plus it occasionally gives us this kind of golden news story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8340865.stm

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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Mattyfez » 14 May 2015, 10:59pm

Bicycler wrote:To my mind, politicians riding bikes is the right kind of symbolism for the promotion of cycling as a transport choice. Other barriers to everyday cycling which have to be overcome are the ideas that cycling is for those who can't afford a car and that it is a sport for fit macho types requiring dressing up in lycra. No, it doesn't necessarily translate to better policy, but politicians may, for their own self-serving reasons, be doing cycling a favour when they are seen cycling to work. In any case we are always moaning that too many drivers have never cycled in their adult lives and so don't understand our concerns. All else being equal, I'd rather have politicians who had cycle commuted than ones who hadn't.

Plus it occasionally gives us this kind of golden news story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8340865.stm


I agree completely, fortunately I don't live in a large city, but I do live in a large town close to one, as a driver and cyclist I find 99.9% of drivers pretty considerate, but you always get one or two who pass with less than 10 inches to spare from the handle bars, I do think there is some responsibility on the part of cyclists to take a more assertive road position though, driving in the gutter and then suddenly pulling out to pass a parked vehicle could be seen as unpredictable.