Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mao, Stalin and Bicycle Nazis

Trey Smith

Wall Street Journal editorial-board member Dorothy Rabinowitz is the object of deserved mockery this week after arguing that New York City's new bike share program is evidence of an "autocratic" mayor with a "totalitarian" mindset who has "begrimed" the best neighborhoods in the city.

If only she weren't representative of a larger trend.

There is no one in America who objects more consistently than me to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initiatives: This is a man who favors stop-and-frisk, racially profiling and spying on innocent Muslims, restricting the size of soda New Yorkers can buy, salt limits, a trans-fat ban, and a pervasive surveillance state. Left up to me, no one like Bloomberg would ever exercise political power. My disdain for his paternalism and disregard for civil liberties is what inclines me to defend his bike initiative. It is the least "totalitarian" major initiative that Bloomberg has undertaken, yet is denounced with some of the strongest language. If the critics were merely expressing their personal displeasure at the prospect of cities better suited to bike travel (or doubts about the efficacy of a particular policy aimed at making cities more bike friendly) that would be fine. Instead they co-opt the language of freedom and oppression, as if orienting cities toward automobiles is natural and libertarian, while bike shares and bike lanes are harbingers of tyranny.

That is vapid, paranoid, philosophically incoherent nonsense. By frivolously trafficking in it, I fear that Rabinowitz and friends will diminish all warnings about liberty and government overreach. Even the boy who cried wolf was invoking the specter of an actually frightening creature.

Rabinowitz is crying bicycle.
~ from The Paranoid Style in Bicycle Politics: A Bicoastal Freak-Out by Conor Friedersdorf ~
Ah yes, the "totalitarianism" of bicycle riding! Mao, Stalin and Hitler too are shaking their fists from the grave.

I have news for people. Cars and highways aren't mentioned in the Holy Bible. None of us has been blessed with a God-given right to pollute our planet at will.


In a nation plagued by obesity, it seems sort of natural that fat asses would object to any strategy that encourages physical activity! Too many of the powers that be like having a fat and lazy electorate. They want us to eat and drive, not exercise and think. Do too much of the latter and, maybe, we might get wise to the games they are playing with our lives.


I know first hand of the all too common reticence of the establishment to promoting the use of bicycles as an alternate form of transportation. During my first year in South Bend, I tried to interest our Mayor and City Council on working to gain for South Bend recognition as a "Bicycle Friendly" community. We needed to take a few steps and it wouldn't have cost that much money, but these people reacted as if I had suggested that we paint all public property purple!

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