The Will To Change Cycling

I’m reading a really cool book called _The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love_ by bell hooks.

In many ways, it makes me feel like motoring is part of patriarchy, perhaps. Whatever the case, the parallels between the treatment of women and the treatment of cyclists is eye opening. Here’s one great quote:

“When feminist women told the world that patriarchy promotes woman-hating, the response was that feminists were being too extreme… Yet when men who know nothing about feminism claimed that feminists were man-hating, there was no response from the non-feminists who said that they were being too extreme.”

This is also true in the cycling world. When we talk about asking for taking a few parking spaces and travel lanes for cycling, this is seen as “too extreme”. But there is no similar condemnation for taking people’s houses, bulldozing them to take this space for motoring.

When we ask the government to spend billions to widen a road which will ultimately cause the traffic speeds to go up to the point that it becomes deadly for cycling, no onw bats an eye. But when we ask the government for a fraction of the original bill to make the road, once again safe for cycling, this will make taxes too high.

I wonder if we considered the tax base which was destroyed when they made freeways through San Diego, we’d find that we could actually balance our budget without raising taxes.

The book goes on:

“No feminists raped and murdered men…Yet these are some of the acts of men that have led some feminist women to identify men as women-hating.”

In cycling this is also true. In fact, we can rewrite the above as: no cyclists have run down and killed motorists, no cyclists have foaled the air which makes it dangerous to the lungs to excercise, no cyclists have bulldozed houses so they can ride faster, but it is cyclists who are accused of being anti-motorist. In the sense that most cyclist would like jail time to motorists, then cyclists are anti-motorists. In the sense that cyclists want motor vehicles to drive at a speed where they don’t harm people, cyclists are anti-motoring. But overall, as a lifestyle, very few cyclists question the motoring design and paradigm of our cities. Few cyclist would like to totally eliminate motoring. Few cyclists would like to totally defund motoring. In fact few cyclists would even go as far as to suggest that motorists pay their fair share in terms of loss of real estate value, environmental damange, noise, and blight which would NOT be covered by a gas tax that raised just enough to repave all the motoring roads.

bell hooks:

“A man who is unabashedly and unequivocally committed to patriarchal masculinity will both fear and hate all that the culture deems feminine and womanly.”

In our language: a person who is unabashedly and unequivocally committed to motoring will both fear and hate all that the culture deems as a more efficient, cleaner, saner, kinder, healthier, and better transportation. This is because most people’s primary motivation is to protect their egos first via self-justification to the point that they’d like to be deluded rather than to look at reality.

bell hooks:

“…most men have not consciously choosen patriarchy as an ideology they want to govern their lives, their beliefs, and actions.”

Similary most motorists have not choosen motoring as the dominant paradigm which determines where they live, how they get to work, and the structure of our cities, our treatment of non-motorists, and to a large extent our international policies.

Deep down, most motorists know there are problems with the current state of motoring, but rather than looking at the larger land use and social justice issues, they focus on a narrower and minorer aspects of motoring which create problems. These “solutions” lead to the perpetuation and even encouragement of motoring while failing to solve the underlying cause of the problems while barely affecting the symptoms. Examples of these half-baked, ill thought out solutions are electric cars, bus rapid transit, drinking and driving, and helmet usage. One of the main reasons that I’m against these non-solution solutions is because they distract us from real problems and actually prevent us from solving the bigger problems.

Finally, there’s the issue that keeps coming up and that is that cyclists will never be successful in convincing the political majority to create a system where one can cycle anywhere in a way that is just as efficient, safe, and convenient as motoring. Similarly, in the past there were criticisms leveled that men would NEVER give a woman a right to control her own body and to work outside the home. To a certain extent, women are constantly under attack from men and women on the political Right. Still, even the most hard core conservative must admit, in fact they often complain about, the fact that women have been partially successful in getting the freedom to live their own lives on their own terms. In the future, critics of cycling advocates are going to look equally silly.


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