Tag Archives: citibike

What is it about bicycling?

First, a confession:  I am the farthest thing from a cyclist.*  I own a clunky purple bicycle with upright handle bars and two scruffy panniers.  I ride not in spandex but in dorky jeans with one cuff rolled up or — even more fashionistically — rubber-banded.  My cycling is limited to a one mile radius of my house, and consists 90% of biking to meet with my co-counsel at the University of Denver law school (.5 miles) in good weather.**

I’m providing this long-winded disclaimer because I’m about to go ballistic in defense of cycling.

WTF is it about cycling that makes conservatives so irrational?  I mean, more irrational than usual.***  I blogged earlier about one Dorothy Rabinowitz who believed that a privately-sponsored bike-share program was a totalitarian plot to “begrime” the city of New York.

After Ms. Rabinowitz was widely ridiculed — including a Daily Show segment — she responded.  As I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn, the rationality quotient was not noticeably higher than in her earlier rant.  Ask the police, she said, “[t]hey know the  . . .  helpless screams.”  Helpless screams?  Of bicycle victims?  As my cousin Sproule pointed out — in my first guest post!**** —

of the 136 pedestrians killed in NYC in 2012, NONE were reportedly killed by cyclists, but all of the 155 pedestrians and cyclists killed in NYC traffic in the same year (15,465 were injured) were killed by motorists

But Sproule is probably just one of those cyclists “careening down the sidewalk in all of his splendid self-affirming environmental helpist mood . . .”  “Helpist?”  “Helpist???”  You know when a conservative puts an “ist” on the end of a word, that means it’s a bad thing, so we’ve reached the apotheosis of Randian libertarianism, I guess, when helping is a bad thing.

“Hi.  Can I give you a hand with that?”

“Back off, helpist scum!  Stop trying to spread your insidious helpism.  It’s a slippery slope to thoughtfulism and considerationism.”

But The Divine Ms. R isn’t alone in her irrational anti-bike freak out.  Apparently L.A. is thinking of creating bike lanes.  Cue right wing talk radio:

Look at these bicyclists, as if they belong to a bizarre cult that worships two-wheel transportation, not a traditional God, not Jesus or Allah, or Jehova, not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they’re like a pagan group, but they don’t even worship trees. Or nature. But they worship two-wheel transportation. And they have their vestments that they wear, their skintight brightly colored clothing, that you don’t see anywhere else, just like in church … you only see this kind of clothing when they’re on the bike in the midst of their worship. They want to be in a special cult.

This is oppressive. I mean, we’re being held hostage by a minority. It’s the tyranny of the micro-minority here.


there comes a tipping point where drivers are going to stop putting up with this garbage. Toll lanes. Carpool lanes. Bike lanes. Everything but lanes for cars where we can drive freely.

That’s right, let’s stop the fascistic imposition of bike lanes and carpool lanes on our naturally-occurring, capitalistically-financed, individualistically-maintained, Ayn-Rand-approved, wtf-are-you-talking-about public fucking streets.  We made a series of public decisions that we would all pay to create and maintain streets and highways for these assholes and their cars (and, um, my car too – thanks!), that we’d pay police to monitor them, and that we’d all get to breathe their exhaust whether we like it or not.  We’re now making public decisions to accommodate and promote other, less dangerous, less noxious forms of transportation, and it’s totalitarianism and hostage-taking?

What is it about bicycles that makes conservatives lose their shit?  I think New York Magazine has the answer, in a helpful Venn diagram:

bike venn diagram


*What’s the proper term here?  I said “biker” once and was informed that that term is limited to big hairy guys on motorcycles.  “Bicyclist” seems sort of formal.  “Cyclist”?  “Badass mofos on two wheels?”

** In bad weather, I somehow always find a good excuse to drive, which is especially embarrassing because large numbers of students drive from somewhere else in the Denver metro area, park at the end of our street, and walk to the school.

*** OK, maybe not as irrational as killing abortion doctors in the name of defending life, or preventing loving couples from getting married in the name of defending marriage.  But pretty damn irrational.

**** I love guest posts!  Wanna be a guest blogger?  Just ask!

More on bicycle totalitarianism (& my first guest post!)

by Sproule Love (in response to my last post about this WSJ video editorial).

I don’t know what’s worse – the giggling sycophantic interviewer opening with a gleeful update about a citibike user getting hit by an SUV, or how out of touch Rabinowitz is with New York. How is this woman in a position of power at a major news outlet, even the Journal? These gems from the video are at the top of my list:

  • “the bike lobby is all-powerful”
  • “every citizen knows, who is in any way sentient, the most important danger in the city is not the yellow cabs, it is the bicyclists”

Is that why the current golden era of cycling infrastructure in NYC took 30+ years of tireless advocacy and has resulted in a 20% decrease in traffic fatalities over the last 10 years? Is that why of the 136 pedestrians killed in NYC in 2012, NONE were reportedly killed by cyclists, but all of the 155 pedestrians and cyclists killed in NYC traffic in the same year (15,465 were injured) were killed by motorists, half of whom got no citation whatsoever, and only one of whom was charged with a serious crime?

To the citibike naysayers, I say don’t knock it ’till you try it, and I much prefer looking at the citiBike rack in my neighborhood over a line of parked cars. NYC is slowly restoring the balance of street use away from just cars, and the change is dramatic. I hope our next mayor doesn’t drop the ball.

Totalitarian bicyclists

New York City recently started a bike-share program.  It’s my understanding that the program is sponsored by Citibank — a capitalist institution last time I checked — and that participation is voluntary, that is, no one is being forced by brownshirts to ride borrowed bicycles.

According to Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz, I may have this all wrong.*

As helpfully transcribed by Talking Points Memo:

“Do not ask me to enter the mind of the totalitarians running this government of the city,” Rabinowitz said when asked what she thought was the motivation behind the program.

“Look, I represent the majority of citizens. . . .The majority of citizens of this city are appalled by what has happened and I would like to say to people who don’t live in New York that this means something much more than the specifics of this dreadful program. It means: envision what happens when you get a government that is run by an autocratic mayor or other leader and a government before which you are helpless. We now look at a city whose best neighborhoods are absolutely begrimed, is the word, by these blazing blue Citi Bank bikes — all of the finest, most picturesque parts of the city. It is shocking to walk around the city to see how much of this they have sneaked under the radar in the interest of the environment.”


“Begrimed”? Is that even a word? And here is the scene that Ms. Rabinowitz finds begrimy:


There are plenty of things in NYC that might properly be called grimy — though it’s possible that Ms. Rabinowitz does not encounter any of them between the limo and the doorman — but this does not seem to satisfy any common language definition of the term.

What this is, of course, is another example of Conservative Linguistic Debasement:  “totalitarian” simply means “something a conservative does not like.”  It doesn’t have to relate to “a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures.”  It just has to piss off a conservative.


* Having sat through most of the video editorial, I agree with James Fallows: “Henceforth when you read the Journal‘s editorials, I invite you to hear this voice, expression, and tone. . . . Onion writers, watch and weep.”