Lolly Walsh and Elly BlueLolly Walsh and Elly Blue
By Elly Blue & Lolly Walsh
In an effort to spark debate about hot topics hitting the bikeosphere, Momentum columnists and bicycle advocates Elly Blue, of Portland, OR, and Lolly Walsh, of Pittsburgh, PA, will duke it out to see which bike steers the truer course.
The question at hand:
Is conservatism necessarily harmful to progressive cycling policy?
As a recent commenter on Bike Forums asserted, “I find cycling to be a very conservative activity. It saves me money and time.”
Conservatism and cycling go hand-in-hand and cycling saves money for both the individual and the government.
Riding a bike is efficient: every meal you eat does double-duty. First it fuels your body and then it fuels your bicycle to get you to work or to a friend’s house. Additionally, the health benefits of cycling reduce the amount of public money needed to treat the debilitating effects of the sedentary lifestyle.
While some so-called conservatives pooh-pooh the mainstreaming of cycling, there is a rising tide of people on both sides of the aisle that are eschewing the financial demands of cars in favor of bicycles, and these cyclists are visible in ever-increasing numbers on city streets across North America.
In fact, in the midst of his usual anti-bike blubbering, Rob Ford, Toronto’s new mayor admitted, “If I lived downtown, I’d be with the cyclists. You don’t need a car to go from point A to point B.”
Mr. Ford has got that right. If those who claim to embrace conservative values actually believed and practiced fiscal conservatism, half of the continent would be riding bikes for transportation.
Yes. Today’s social conservatives, particularly the Tea Party movement, are beginning to see the merits of the modern bicycle movement… as a punching bag.
When a Colorado gubernatorial candidate claimed that Denver’s bicycle programs were part of a UN plot, the world laughed. Less funny was an Arkansas activist’s public diatribe about Obama’s Muslim pro-bicycle plot “to wean us off cars.”
Perhaps this trend is inevitable. The great myth that cars and roads pay for themselves via user fees is still widespread in North America. The corollary is that bicyclists are freeloaders, and both are excellent arguments for continuing to pour public money into automobile infrastructure.
Why pick on bikes? Follow the money: You’ll quickly find out that the culture wars of the new right are funded by oil interests. Moreover, the votes that put them in power are largely cast in car-dependent suburbia.
Until suburbs become bikeable, how will the right-wingers have empathy for cyclists, much less choose to ride? Until the oil economy shifts in a saner direction, bicycles will be seen as an easy target for cheap political shots rather than a viable mode of transportation.
Lolly Walsh is a bicycle advocate living in Pittsburgh, PA. She loves the elegance of the bicycle and rides hers for transportation, convenience and pleasure. She manages the Membership and Outreach programs for Bike Pittsburgh and writes about cities, bikes, possibility and Pittsburgh at Reimagine an Urban Paradise. Elly Blue is a bicycle transportationist living in Portland, OR. She writes for publications, such as Grist, BikePortland and Momentum.
Conservative City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he’d ride a bike, too: youtube.com/watch?v=xwxiv2aznB0
How to Talk About Cycling to a Conservative:
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