Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

03 July 2017

Who Are We?

We're white.  We're male.  After our training rides in the park, we wheel our flashy carbon-fiber machines under canopies of luxury condo buildings.

We're male, too.  But we're brown and black.  We pedal dilapidated-looking-bikes--or bikes that we're not supposed to be able to afford because, well... We don't speak English well, or at all.  We're probably undocumented, to boot,

We are also male--and could be white, brown or black--but we're not likely to be yellow.  We are riding bikes because...we can't afford to drive.  Or we can't drive because we've lost our licenses, or couldn't get them in the first place.

The Rev. Laura Everett describes each of these stereotypes about cyclists in her Daily Beast editorial, "We Need To Ditch All The Old Cliches About Cyclists."  She makes a very good case against each of those cariactures, using data (e.g., that the majority of cyclists are indeed poor, but don't necessarily fit into the second and third stereotypes) from various studies I have mentioned in some of my earlier posts.

She also makes a very interesting point:  During the two previous "golden ages" of cycling in the US--1890-1910 and the 1970s--cycling was seen as a pastime of the leisured class.  And, once it lost that status, cycling fell into a steep decline.  The first "boom" ended when automobiles became affordable to average working people. (Interestingly, during the 1890s, a bicycle cost what an average worker earned in year!)  The second declined with a deep recession fueled by a spike in petrol prices and suffered its death blow when the election of Ronald Reagan ended the first major environmental movements in the US.

She sees that we are in a third "golden age" of cycling. In order to sustain it, she says, all of the stereotypes have to be shattered. Cycling will never become mainstream if it is not seen, by planners and the general public alike, as a vital link in the transportation system.  That, in turn, will not happen if cycling is seen only as a leisuretime activity of the privileged or as the "last resort" of the poor, nonwhite or criminal classes.

For her part, Rev. Everett says she began cycle-commuting because she was a poor recent graduate who was just starting her career.  Seven years later, she continues to ride because, as she says, it really is the best transportation option for her--and because she enjoys it.

To me, she sounds like the kind of cyclist the public needs to know more about if cycling is to become mainstream  And, I must add:  She's a woman.  Thus, she can't help but to break the stereotype.  I  like to believe that I am, too.

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