Thursday, July 15, 2010

Media Watch

The Wall street journal had an article that was the banner of the front page, and the lead of the Arts/ Leisure section about cycle chic,  and while I had a couple of issues with it,  I thought that overall it was a better pieces than most in the mainstream media.  Although there was a "business of cycling" slant (not surprising given the source)  I thought it was less patronizing than a lot of the "how cute, women on bikes" stories that one too often sees.  A guy on the elevator today wanted to talk about it- so it's great that it's getting a lot of attention.  A little disappointing that the author had to call her husband to pick her up at the end of the ride.

The thing that disturbed me was how negative the comments FROM OTHER BIKERS were.  There were of course the obligatory 10% of "scofflaw cyclists don't obey the laws, and biking in the city is incredibly dangerous and foolhardy" people,  who were robbed of their favorite "Lance Armstrong wannabe"  line.   What was discouraging was a ton of people, ok,  almost all men, who ragged on how heavy and stupid steel IGH bikes were,  and how the last thing the bike community needs are new inexperienced riders in "dangerous" inappropriate footwear.  
So now we need to don armor and steel toed boots to get to work?  What are you so afraid of guys?  Someone riding to work without a reflective triangle make you feel like what you're doing isn't so heroic and brave?  

To me riding not being heroic is the goal,  and to that end, my other tidbit:

This isn't actually "mainstream" media, but there's a fabulous film from the great Streetfilms about the recent VeloCity conference in Copenhagen.  I know that there's a lot of publicity about Copenhagen and cycle Chic, but this one was told through clips of american city planners there for the conference(Including Livable Streets' Jackie Douglas!) .  It was so inspiring and beautiful- to think that someday we might have the same thing here is something to be dreamed of, and worked for.  My favorite moment was the planner from LA talking about the boxes o'kids she saw everywhere. 

I went to a meeting about the Accelerated bridge program earlier in the week, and although the contrast to the "bad old days"  of the old MassDot was striking,  it's more that they seem to have gotten the message that if they don't plan for bikes, bikers will revolt and make their lives miserable in public comments.    We have such a great advocate in Nichole Freedman on the Boston side of things,  now what we need is a similar visionary in the Mass DOT hierarchy.  The aforementioned Jackie was saying how instead of them grousing about 6" of lane width, they need to come into these meetings saying: this is our plan for getting 30% bicycling mode share by 2020.  Supposedly they're looking for a Ped-Bike coordinator, and I hope that they get the right person in that job.


  1. If I told the female commuter in our building "how cute, women on bikes," she'd smack me silly. Those commenters know not of what they speak. Sheila told me where there's a secret water fountain that has cold water on our route home!

  2. I am sorry, but I am just so sick of Cycle Chic or Biker Chic or whatever you want to call them pieces. They are silly and shallow and repetitive. Enough already - it's time for journalists to think of a different angle, and one that reflects reality better.

    And I agree with your comments re MassDOT.

  3. Yeah.... I think I've run out of things to say about discussions like the ones the article raised. It's sad to see that so many cyclists are so misinformed about the basics of city cycling.

    To take just one example, there is the suggestion that upright bicycles cannot be comfortable and that a forward leaning position is necessary. This is bullshit, plain and simple.

  4. Herzog - I hear that suggestion a lot, including in the form of "compliments" - i.e. now that I can ride a bike with drop bars, soon I will be commuting on it instead of my loop frame clunkers. And I agree that it is complete BS. I was returning home on my roadbike from a ride in the countryside yesterday, and went through a stretch of Mass Ave from Arlington to Cambridge. I now have a computer on that bike and was curious to see how fast I could go. I was not able to go more than 14mph tops because of the traffic light patterns - and that's not even in the thick of the city. You do not need a roadbike to travel at that speed, and you will gain nothing by riding a roadbike in the city, while losing visibility and comfort.

  5. Furthermore, I think (I'm not sure) that forward leaning positions are more tiring for heavy people. Therefore, suggesting they're the only way to go is a great way to discourage a large segment from our population from cycling. Which is especially sad since heavy people can gain a lot from cycling because it's much more efficient than walking.

    BTW, could you tell me what is your current favorite route from Cambridge/Somerville to Walden Pond?

  6. Wow- that comment about not wanting new inexperienced riders on the road is BS. The more riders out there, the more advocacy we have, the more vehicles will have to become aware of our presence, and the more people will learn to become experienced riders! That's just crappy. Plus riding should be an inclusive activity, not exclusive. Share the road yo.