Not only is the cult of suburban cycling an annoyance to motorists, it’s also an inherently prejudiced subculture.
Each weekday morning, I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and drive 50 miles to the office. Then I drive another 50 back home in the evening. Since I live in Atlanta, you want to take a wild guess how long all that takes? Depending on how heavy traffic is backed up – and it’s always backed up, thanks to the city’s brilliant idea to merge no less than three highways into a six-lane downtown apocalypse – I’m spending anywhere from two to four (and on especially heinous commutes) five hours a day just sitting in my car.
Let’s do some math, why don’t we? If I’m spending about 10 to 12 hours at work Monday through Friday – plus another two to four hours traveling to and fro – that means, on any given work day, I’ve got about 8 to 12 hours of “free time” (of which I’ll be spending at least six sleeping.) On the most stressful days, that means I have as little as just two hours to eat, shower, do laundry, buy groceries, pay my bills and exchange pleasantries with my loved ones.
So for me, time is obviously a precious commodity. Even losing 10 minutes means I’ve got to sacrifice a Skype session, or put off sending an email, or – in the most extreme instances – forgo an entire meal.
If for any reason you delay me in enjoying those rare, hyper-valuable moments to myself, I will hate you with the burning fury of a thousand suns. Which brings me to far and away the most irritating type of people on the face of the planet … bicyclists.
Yes, bicyclists, those dreadfully mundane suburban hipster ne’er-do-wells who have decided that they have some sort of ordained right to take their stupid mountain bikes out on to ACTUAL roadways and pedal at speeds sometimes eclipsing a breakneck 15 miles per hour.
You’ve seen these people before, no doubt. They are either 20-something, fresh-out-of-college neo-yuppie amoebas who have IPA stickers on the back of their Nissan Leafs or 50-year-old wannabe outdoorsmen on their third divorce who listen to Phish and work at investment banking companies. They almost always wear bright outfits – blinding purple and green and yellow tracksuits seem to be the most popular in my neck of the woods – and, of course, they always strap GoPro cameras to the top of their helmets, on the off-chance they can record some irked motorist telling them off or giving them the finger so they can post it online and drum up some sort of false victimization narrative.
Regardless of their ages or genders, these people are the absolute most insufferable human beings I have ever encountered. They have no regards for the schedules or even basic safety of others, having decided long ago that their own egotistical desire to show off their overpriced toys is a fair trade off for preventing others from getting to their appointments and seeing their friends and family on time.
And on top of that? A lot of them are outright racists, too.
Unfounded conjecture on my part? Not at all. The simple fact is that suburban bicycling is an inherently prejudiced subculture, and that many of the state-and-municipal-level policies designed to “promote” biking either directly or indirectly hurts individuals of color.
Let’s start with the most obvious thing first. There is a big difference between bicycling hobbyists and those who actually rely on bicycling as their primary means of transportation. Bicycling hobbyists (in particular, the ones who buy $3,000 bikes from REI, dress up like Fruity Pebbles and live stream themselves pedaling to the local Starbucks) in the metro-Atlanta region are – as evidenced by the majority composition of such organizations as The Atlanta Bicycling Coalition, the Metro Atlanta Cycling Club, the Southern Bicycle League, Ladies on Spokes, and Sorella Cycling – are overwhelmingly upper-middle-class to lower-upper-class whites.
The people who have to ride bikes to get to where they need to are usually lower class minorities or poorer Caucasians. For them, bicycling is not a trendy pastime, but an economic necessity. They can’t afford a car (or they lack public transit options, or they don’t have the paper work to get a driver’s license), so biking is often their only way of commuting to work, or school or wherever else they would like to conduct business.
Alas, in Atlanta and its suburban environs, the public policy decisions expanding bike lanes have focused almost entirely on recreational biking. The city of Atlanta has already spent $31 million on the BeltLine biking trail project (plus another $64 million on largely fruitless housing bonds for units to circle the loop), with another $51 million allocated for future trail expansion. Who knows if a proposal for 200 miles of inner city bike paths announced in 2008 will ever come to fruition – and God knows how much such a program would cost if it was ever put into construction. The Atlanta Regional Commission has even floated the idea of creating some sort of gigantic biking arc that would stretch from the northern mountains of Georgia down to the southern provinces of Atlanta – an enormously pricy proposition that serves no real economic purpose, other than to give wealthy, predominantly white bicyclists a bigger weekend playground.
Even the lofty connectivity plans promulgated by organizations like the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition emphasize development of biking amenities that seems to conveniently leave out access points for the poorer – and by default, less white – neighborhoods in the city. Irony of ironies, all of the massive bicycling infrastructure projects bandied about by all these pedal-philes appear to lock out the denizens of metro Atlanta who are most likely to rely upon bicycling as their only mode of transportation.
Recreational hipster bikers are definitely the big winners in the city’s multitudinous infrastructure proposals. Meanwhile, not only do these plans preclude “necessity bikers” from safely traveling, the plans actually take infrastructural resources away from them and keep them geographically isolated worse off than they were before.
The worst part? Many biking proponents in the northern ‘burbs don’t even pretend that cycling infrastructure investments aren’t being used as a proxy gentrification tool. In one of the most brazenly racist things I’ve ever read in the 21st century, one “new urbanism” proponent from Roswell, Ga., flat out said bicycling investments were needed to deter white flight – i.e., to keep poor black people from migrating to the community!
Now, are all upper-class bicycling enthusiasts in metro Atlanta the moral equivalent of Klansmen and neo-Nazis? Perhaps not ideologically, but frankly, their de facto de-investment proposals do far more harm to the poor people of color in the region than any amount of keyboard-supremacist vitriol. The hate-filled musings of some Stormfront forum member in Kansas isn’t going to force a lower-class black family to move out of their complex, but the gentrification-by-any-other-
name proposed by the pro-biking communities very much can, could and will. (And as a rather ironic aside, apparently, bicycling is a fairly popular pastime among avowed white nationalists – just so you know.)
What sort of net social positive are these recreational bikers bringing to the community, anyway? How does their ostentatious, traffic-impeding displays of classism make our neighborhoods safer or more productive, and just how much of an economic impact do these narcissistic, prejudiced clods' fruity little bicycling circle-jerkin' really have? Aren’t there more productive uses of taxpayer money than giving new trail space for these bourgeois dunderheads – especially considering the fact the metro Atlanta region is expected to add 2.5 million new inhabitants by 2040?
In these United States, we are allowed to participate in whatever lawful hobbies we wish – that is, until these hobbies infringe upon the safety, wellbeing and liberty of others. With that in mind, you don’t see me playing Game Boy in the middle of a two-lane road, nor will you ever find me live-streaming a Raiders game five feet to the side of a stop sign, thus, preventing you from driving forward without crossing your car over into oncoming traffic. And you most certainly won’t find me lollygagging at an ATM machine, just squandering the time and lives of everybody behind me.
That’s because – unlike all of those smug, self-absorbed recreational bikers out there – I actually have a little bit of consideration for my fellow man.
And on top of that? My leisure-time activities don’t actively displace or funnel resources away from the underprivileged in the community, either.