You'd imagine that at some point Americans would wake up to the fact that they're being sold a very expensive illusion of safety that is in fact killing them and opt for practicality and efficiency over sheer size, but until that day there's nothing illusory about city streets filled with light-running SUVs driven by a gentry who are more or less free to maim with impunity. And when it comes to cycling for transportation, the fact that your safety--indeed your very life--is not a consideration is what you might call a "barrier to entry."The illusion of safety that BSNYC describes here is a function of what literary theorists call ideology, or an imaginary relationship to a real mode of production. We NEED cars. Cars MUST exist. You CAN'T live without one. You have to get from your suburb to your office every day, right? Because ownership of a McMansion with an acre of lawn is the AMERICAN DREAM, right? And so to protect ourselves from death and dismemberment, we should buy cars that are SAFER (ie: more expensive) than anybody else's car. Escalade! America!
The other salient point I find in the BSNYC quote is about "gentry." Marx argues that "the [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle." So it's the "gentry" (ie: rich whiteys) in their Yukons and Escalades who are endangering proletarian cyclists? (ie: working stiffs) Right? That's why more people don't ride bikes?
Is that what makes me a radical? I ride a bike?
But wait. The average retail cost of the bikes ridden on an average American "race ride" is ~$3,000? And most of the riders drive their SUVs to the start of the ride? Well, crap.
So I guess the revolution will be led by super-commuters Rafal, Munson, and Sarah, none of whom have updated their blogs in weeks. How about Matt Martin and the Community Bike Project? They're getting working stiffs on bikes by recycling old parts and teaching folks how to fix their bikes.
I'm certainly not in the vanguard. The only cycling-based class struggle I saw last week was when an exemplar of white-trash hickdom in a broken-down pickup truck tried to run a bunch of doctors, lawyers, and middle managers off the Omaha Trace Road as we spun along on our snazzy pieces of carbon. Workers of the world, unite -- and kill all the freaks wearing $250 bib shorts!
Know what else? I don't care what the crime statistics say: the safest place in Omaha, Nebraska is along Florence Blvd and North 24th St -- when you're riding a bike. These neighborhoods are riddled with drugs and gang-related crimes, but at least the motorists there don't value their time more than cyclists' safety. They'll get their vehicles around you eventually, so what's the hurry? Most all of them return my friendly wave as they ease past me.
That courtesy doesn't happen in Millard very often. No one in in the predominately bourgeois Omaha suburbs has EVER yelled "Hello, beautiful white people!" when a bunch of Union Pacific executives rode by, at least not when I was around. And only a hillbilly meth-head has ever stepped out from behind a Redwood tree along the the Bohemian Highway in Norcal and yelled "Peace on earth! Wanna see my tits?!"
Rhetorical support for the revolution: that's gotta count for something.