Cycling Wabi-sabi Style

I have noticed that the disease of perfectionism it permeating much of the bicycle world from all sides.

There’s the utility cyclist perfectionism that wants separated and dedicated bicycle paths or they won’t ride.

Then there’s the notion that every piece of infrastructure and every law has to be put under a microscope to ensure that racers can race–anti-social or not–their bikes on the city streets.

If one bad law gets passed or if one bike path gets put in then it’s curtains for biking forever.

It’s almost as if the whole cycling world is depressed.

Except for me. I love bicycling in this excellent weather, and even if the weather sucked, I’d most likely be living in a sweet compact city. So it’s all good.

As Will says, even if you are lost and stuck on the side of a highway, at least you’re ON YOUR BIKE.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Still, the perfectionism is grating.

This is because as _Feeling Good_ says, “Perfection is man’s ultimate illusion…it promises riches and delivers misery…Everything can be improved if you look at it closely enough…So if you strive for perfection, you are going to be a loser in whatever you do.”

And it’s true. There’s nothing good enough for some people so we pick nothing instead.

It’s totally demoralizing and paralyzing. This is the reason we are, in 2011, in San Diego. Each time we try to make something, self-appointed “experts” put it under a microscope.

What really drives me bananas is their double standard towards other forms of city spending, especially infrastructure.

I do think that this perfectionist point of view is very damaging for cycling.

Here are some ways this is so, from _Feeling Good_:

1. Fear of mistakes (and the omnipresent spectre of “liability”) keep things from becoming truly great. In fact, I’d argue that fear of “liability” actually makes things more dangerous because it disallows things that have made cycling more safe in other countries.

2. It makes cyclists intolerant of others. This is especially true in the VC/Cycling Savy/Whatever Else They Call Themselves This Week. There is more whining about homeless, bike paths, and salmon, and less actual cycling. Screw that.

A shitty cyclist is better than no cyclist at all.

3. It keeps us from doing experiements to discover new ways of planning the city. How many experiments have been torpedoed due to “lack of data?” (sic)

We’re so afraid of making mistakes that we don’t do anything that isn’t all ready “legal”.

This makes the world boring and cycling stagnates because there’s nothing new coming out of Sac and nothing new being built.

Thankfully, this attitude is dying off, and the next generation sees the world as beautiful in its imperfection, an attitude summed up in the Wabi-sabi point of view: …one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the Three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin?), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō?).


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