April 15th, 2011

Rich v. Poor cyclists

I guess the day would always come, when yuppie, inner city, slow cycling Dr. Behooving (me when I wear tweed), would look into the eyes of wretched road racing Steven (me when I wear lycra, and assert myself among cars). And what does Dr. Behooving feel when looking into the muddy eyes of this poor rain soaked gladiator? That mix of pity and awe I see in the eyes of some drivers as they gingerly overtake me down hills.

No, those are my legs on the right, not the flubbery legs of some yuppie pretender.

Dr. Behooving could not have come into being, had Steven not bought a house, at the smart time, in this more recently gentrified inner city neighborhood. But road racing Steven was born of the suburbs, and of having no money even for bus fares. Dr. Behooving rides his upright bike further than most yuppies ride theirs—30km round trips to work, and 50km round trips for pleasure—but still, it is in the city that I most enjoy prancing around. Road racing Steven thinks nothing of riding 100km in a day, right out past the farthest flung suburbs.

"Crisis" is a word favoured when nothing could possibly be very critical. The art world has crises. Post modernism was a crisis—as if! Wars are mere "situations". So should I use the word "crisis" or "situation" to describe my present state? You see, it has really struck me, quite recently, how inner city snobbery is the real motivation behind the cycle paths decorating inner city Sydney, and Brooklyn, for instance. As a band of piety ringing these cities, they're at least as effective as gleaming white churches, in warning off unfaithful outsiders. They say "We vote green and recycle, and don't take too kindly to folk not from around here." And it's repugnant to me, that these newcomers to cycling, who would not dream of riding to the city, if divorce let's say, made them poor and they had to move out to the burbs... I cringe when they tell me how they stare daggers at real cyclists, riding fast, on the road. They're telling actual cyclists to go back where they came from.  Now,  I appreciate their joining the fold, and raising driver awareness of cyclists. I share their desire to ride with their kids. I basically agree with their project.

Inner city cyclists say: "We live here, fuck off".

But I was poor once, you see. Those years gave me these legs, my road savvy, and this proud defiance you're probably sensing. Oh and let's not forget, the enormous chip on my shoulder. I want to get behind the Copenhagenisation of the gentrified inner city, but see in some sense I'm turning my back on my past, and guys I race with, who commute every day on their bikes from the burbs. As an architect, I see the long-term answer is to build more affordable housing in, or close to, the city (an example in Portland), so everyone has the luxury of riding slowly, but I know those green voting yuppies want it all for themselves.