Is the bicycle a political object?

DBridge
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby DBridge » 15 May 2015, 9:40am

I would have thought setting cycling up as a political statement was something to be avoided like the plague. Opponents of cycling love to see cyclists depicted as hare-brained lycra clad eccentrics, or as anything you like as long as it's not someone like them. If you want to marginalise cycling, make it seen as something no normal person would do, this is the way to go.

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horizon
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby horizon » 15 May 2015, 12:36pm

DBridge wrote:I would have thought setting cycling up as a political statement was something to be avoided like the plague.


The problem with this is that it leaves behind all the other good things that, I maintain, are represented by the bicycle. Of course, you could just regard the bicycle as a toy for children, a means of transport like any other for adults, a piece of sporting equipment for racing types. But the bicycle obviously isn't just that: riding a bicycle means that you have made an arguably harder choice in order to achieve, let's say a less polluted world, less dependent on oil. Whether you like it or not, your riding a bicycle says something about your views and aspirations. And it says something about the views and aspirations of the society in which we live.

You are right in that other people might seize on the bicycle as a symbol of everything they hate (they do already); that in itself is undesirable but strengthens the argument about the bicycle being a symbol and therefore a political object. To those who say, I ride a bike but it means nothing more than that - good luck, as that riding in itself is under pressure unless society takes the bicycle on board.
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 » 15 May 2015, 1:04pm

horizon wrote:
DBridge wrote:I would have thought setting cycling up as a political statement was something to be avoided like the plague.

But the bicycle obviously isn't just that: riding a bicycle means that you have made an arguably harder choice in order to achieve, let's say a less polluted world, less dependent on oil. Whether you like it or not, your riding a bicycle says something about your views and aspirations. And it says something about the views and aspirations of the society in which we live.

Except that's only true for a minority of cyclists. Most are motivated by convenience, cost, enjoyment, etc. If we ever want a mass cycling culture it will only arise out of cycling being seen as a practical and normal transport choice, not an alternative lifestyle choice for the bearded and sandalled :wink:

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b1ke
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby b1ke » 15 May 2015, 3:20pm

Interesting post.

Cycling is partially political for me and it seems I fit some of the stereotypes mentioned - I've got a beard, I'm vegetarian and I own, but rarely wear sandals. And there I was thinking I was an individual 8-)

That said, I also ride for enjoyment. I love the bicycle - cheap, good for the body, mind and soul, low impact and it can take you to some beautiful places, physically and emotionally.

I don't see anything wrong with either perception. The political aspect is very much a personal matter and feeds my need to live lightly. The more hedonistic aspect feeds my need for a buzz in life.

As cycling has become more popular, it's also become more things to more people. That's fine by me.

The bicycle can be a toy but it's also a very practical urban transport solution. I worked as a courier for 9 years using cargo bikes to deliver in and around Brighton. I think this type of application takes the bike beyond just being a toy.
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Edwards
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Edwards » 16 May 2015, 7:50am

To me cycling in itself is not political, it is the person that is. If you preach about how green cycling is that strap a bike to the roof of a large car to drive 100 miles for a ride.
I can not see how you can claim that is green an good for the environment. Good for the person yes.

If you claim that it represents a true form of affordable transport in this country. Then with they way things are with car use. You risk cycling being for those who can not afford any other form of transport. Even worse (as viewed by the rest of society) as a Yogurt eating hair shirt wearing sort of strange thing. That is tolerated for their quirky entertainment and discussion value.

So to me the best thing is if cycling is not political but the needs of cyclists are.

Most people ride a bike because they want to. If you start telling them they are riding a bike for political reasons that they may not agree with. Then they may just stop doing so.
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horizon
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby horizon » 16 May 2015, 10:50am

Edwards wrote:
Most people ride a bike because they want to. If you start telling them they are riding a bike for political reasons that they may not agree with. Then they may just stop doing so.


That's up to them. I didn't create this situation. What I'm saying is that by its very nature the bicycle stands at the centre of a pivotal moment in the politics of human development. All those discussions about climate change, oil, Iraq, traffic, children's play, congestion, road building, streets, noise, urban life, health, diabetes and NHS spending pivot around a change in technology and human activity exemplified by an object we call the bicycle. By riding a bicycle, I suggest, you are making a statement (albeit an unwitting one) about your preferences, your views and perhaps your hopes about the future. That's politics. If people are blissfully unaware of that (and choose to remain so), that's fine. But to the onlooker, it's clear what they are saying.
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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b1ke
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby b1ke » 16 May 2015, 6:09pm

hair shirt wearing sort of strange thing


What's a hair shirt?
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tatanab
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby tatanab » 16 May 2015, 6:25pm

I cycle because I enjoy it. If I regarded it as remotely political I would have to feel guilty about having all those components shipped over from the Far East at tremendous cost to the environment versus buying parts made locally. If people think I am being political just by turning a pedal then that is their problem. Just think how political they must believe me to be because I choose to walk 2 miles to the supermarket rather than cycle and perhaps by doing so show that I do not rely on a machine (pedal cycle) produced at great expense in materials and energy.

My choice in using pedal cycles says absolutely nothing about my political views.

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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Edwards » 16 May 2015, 10:14pm

b1ke wrote:
hair shirt wearing sort of strange thing


What's a hair shirt?


horse hair Yak hair any hair that is itchy and scratchy to be like the monks of old.

horizon wrote:
Edwards wrote:
Most people ride a bike because they want to. If you start telling them they are riding a bike for political reasons that they may not agree with. Then they may just stop doing so.


That's up to them. I didn't create this situation. What I'm saying is that by its very nature the bicycle stands at the centre of a pivotal moment in the politics of human development. All those discussions about climate change, oil, Iraq, traffic, children's play, congestion, road building, streets, noise, urban life, health, diabetes and NHS spending pivot around a change in technology and human activity exemplified by an object we call the bicycle. By riding a bicycle, I suggest, you are making a statement (albeit an unwitting one) about your preferences, your views and perhaps your hopes about the future. That's politics. If people are blissfully unaware of that (and choose to remain so), that's fine. But to the onlooker, it's clear what they are saying.


Only if the person viewing them thinks that way. I would suggest that the vast majority of people do not think that way and could not care less.
In a very few middle class areas you may be correct but I think not for the rest of us.
The majority of people do not care about politics in this country as shown by the turnout at the last election. As for the health why do so many have weight problems?
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jgurney
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby jgurney » 18 May 2015, 1:15pm

Bicycler wrote: cyclists. Most are motivated by convenience, cost, enjoyment, etc.


I.e. making rational and personal choices - which means they are rejecting the advertiser-governed media's efforts to persuade them to make irrational and conformist ones, and choosing to what makes sense rather than conform. There lies the political element.

Ben@Forest
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Ben@Forest » 18 May 2015, 4:56pm

horizon wrote:. What I'm saying is that by its very nature the bicycle stands at the centre of a pivotal moment in the politics of human development... By riding a bicycle, I suggest, you are making a statement (albeit an unwitting one) about your preferences, your views and perhaps your hopes about the future. That's politics. If people are blissfully unaware of that (and choose to remain so), that's fine. But to the onlooker, it's clear what they are saying.


Sorry Horizon (and I know you've been making this point over in the Tea Shop too recently) but it doesn't wash. A few years ago I was walking down the high street of a Midlands town. It was about 8.00am and had the usual busy activity people setting up shop, going to work, standing at bus stops etc. A bloke on a cheap mountain bike was riding hard (and comparatively fast) along the pavement. People were having to jump out of the way so as not to be knocked down, I had to avoid him. He really couldn't have cared less. In his face he had the scowl of someone who wanted to be in a hot hatch and couldn't believe he had to ride this shoddy bike instead.

So what was he saying to the onlooker? What statement was he making? That cyclists can be morons too...?

I'm afraid my man you're just too highfalutin' about cyclists. Yes, some think like you but most don't, and a few definitely aren't at pivotal moments of human development.

Tacascarow
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Tacascarow » 18 May 2015, 5:25pm

There's a political party in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India that uses the bicycle as it's political slogan.
I'm a full time cyclist, I don't drive a motor vehicle of any sort.
I don't do it as a political statement but as a lifestyle choice.
I prefer to know my way of life isn't impacting on this planet to a great extent.
It could be seen as a political statement but that's not my intent.

Bicycler
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Bicycler » 18 May 2015, 5:30pm

+1 Ben.
jgurney wrote:
Bicycler wrote: cyclists. Most are motivated by convenience, cost, enjoyment, etc.


I.e. making rational and personal choices - which means they are rejecting the advertiser-governed media's efforts to persuade them to make irrational and conformist ones, and choosing to what makes sense rather than conform. There lies the political element.

Nah, I don't really buy your argument. By that reasoning any niche activity (or any activity not endorsed by some unspecified elite of media types) is a political statement. Cyclists are no more immune to advertising and conformity than anybody else (buy one of the cycling mags and take a look at the MAMIL crowd). Nor are their decisions to cycle necessarily any more rational than others' decisions not to do so.

Ellieb
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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby Ellieb » 18 May 2015, 6:33pm

Erm.. What about a £10 grand carbon racing bike, or a similarly priced all the frills mtb? What sort of political statement are they making? Bikes are only representative of a particular type of politics if you choose to look at only one aspect of their design, manurfacture and use.

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Re: Is the bicycle a political object?

Postby jgurney » 20 May 2015, 11:47am

Ben@Forest wrote: A bloke on a cheap mountain bike was riding hard (and comparatively fast) along the pavement. People were having to jump out of the way so as not to be knocked down, I had to avoid him. .... In his face he had the scowl of someone who wanted to be in a hot hatch and couldn't believe he had to ride this shoddy bike instead.

So what was he saying to the onlooker? What statement was he making?


Exactly the one you saw that he was. That he wanted everyone to know that he was:
not one of these people who believed cyclists had a right to be on the road - shown by riding on the pavement.
not one of these people who took their cycling seriously as a form of transport - shown by messing about on the pavement and by having a cheap bike, not wanting a 'serious' one.
not one of these do-gooders into peace or co-operation, sometimes linked to cycling - shown by riding in a anti-social fashion that annoyed or threatened others.
not rejecting the idea that cars equal status - shown by aggressive riding to demonstrate he is not meekly taking having to ride a bike lying down, but is resisting this insult.
that while he might be sat on a bike right now, his cultural identity was firmly as a motorist.

He evidently did this successfully as he got his message across to you.