University of Wisconsin historian James Longhurst has written a book about the history of conflicts over cyclists’ rights to use the road. As Longhurst points out, cycling has gone through a number of “booms,” starting in the late nineteenth century, then during World War II, later with the growth of environmentalism in the 1970s, and most recently in the last few years. As a cyclist myself, I was familiar with most of this history except for the WWII part, and as near as I can tell Longhurst’s account is accurate.
However, as illustrated in the video below, Longhurst approaches the debate as an environmental issue, which leads him in the wrong direction. Treating cycling as an environmental issue leads to the conclusion that bicycles are morally superior to automobiles because they use less energy and pollute less. That leads to demands that cyclists be allowed special rights, such as the right to unnecessarily block traffic or use the middle of a lane even if it slows auto traffic. Continue reading
Cyclists want to spend millions of dollars out of highway user fees to build new bicycle infrastructure, including bike paths and lanes. But a recent survey by a bicycle advocacy group found that the most important reason women don’t bike is not lack of infrastructure, but because it is not convenient for them to do so. As a Seattle blogger points out, women spend twice as much time doing housework as men (including the time spent cleaning men’s cycling clothes), they are twice as likely to do trip chaining (combining multiple destinations in one trip), and they are twice as likely to take children with them on their trips. All these things make it unlikely that building a few bike paths will get lots more women on two wheels.
Meanwhile, in Gainesville Florida, a cyclist challenged the head of the local Republican Party to a bicycle vs. car race. The car won by 45 minutes–probably because the race was a stacked deck, requiring participants to wear business clothing, make multiple stops, and carry such things as groceries and a 2×4 (which proved to be impossible).
Of course, once cyclists get legislation passed forcing all businesses to have showers available, there won’t be any need to wear business clothing on cycle trips. (However, the time required to shower and change might have to be counted against the cyclist.) Continue reading