The Politics of Biking

In large cities it isn’t uncommon to see people of all types riding bicycles.

Young, old, and in between, all powering two wheels with their legs.

Yet, not all cities are bike friendly and there are common misconceptions about people who ride bicycles.

In Europe, bicycles rule the road. In Copenhagen and Amsterdam most of the residents ride bicycles instead of drive cars. There are even bicycle parking decks in town.

That is a sharp contrast to American cities. With the exception of Portland and some large cities like San Francisco, most cities have marginal accommodations for bicycles and cars rule the road.

Bicyclists have to navigate between cars or on sidewalks because of the absence of bicycle lanes.

In the town I reside there has been an investment in making the town more pedestrian and bike friendly.

Investing in bicycle lanes, walkways, and sidewalks require towns to have the budget as well as expressed need for them from town residents.

If it is perceived that people don’t ride bicycles, then there will be no bicycle lanes.

When you think of bicycle riders, maybe Lance Armstrong comes to mind, or maybe you think a college kid biking to and from class.

Yet there are many different types of riders.

People who ride for leisure, people who ride to school or work, and people who ride for competition.

As with everything, there is politics attached to biking.

Income is a major factor in the ability to have a bike as well as reasons to ride one.

Higher income individuals buy top of the line bikes, some of which cost upwards of $5,000. Many of these individuals ride for competition. They compete in triathlons such as the Iron Man.

Bikes in this price range usually come from bike shops. I’ve been in these shops and they usually carry bikes with prices ranging from $300~ to $5,000~.

People who don’t have their entire rent check to drop on a bike, usually frequent Wal-Mart ¬†or Target’s bike selection. Some even hunt on Craigslist or go dumpster diving.

This is where the disparity comes in. People who can’t afford thousand dollar bikes get what they can afford.

These folks ride bikes for leisure or transportation.

In America’s culture, everything is about status. In bicycle culture, the same logic is applied.

If the bike didn’t come from a bike shop, it is thought to be just a pile of crap.

Unfortunately this logic seems to exclude lower-income individuals from “bike culture”. It conveys the stereotype that only rich people ride bikes.

In reality, everyone rides, just for different reasons. Where you buy your bicycle from shouldn’t matter.

In a car dominated town, riding a bike may seem like an oddity. Why ride a bike when you can drive a car? Well some people don’t have a car. Some people use bikes as a means of transportation.

Here is another matter of contention among bike culture.

People who ride bicycles for transportation are thought of as poor or mainly college students. When in reality, especially in bike friendly cities, many people use bikes as a means of transportation.

Bicycle culture in America has grown, but could use some more help. Including low-income communities, women, people of color, and others not often associated with bicycling will expand bicycling to a larger audience and make it more popular in all cities.








2 thoughts on “The Politics of Biking

  1. So many great points here! Love this post! I drive a car as a means of transportation where I live now, but have every intention in changing that habit when I move to Seattle in a year!


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