I was reading the urban cycling blog BikePortland this morning and came upon a post about an initiative called Green Patriot Posters. The organizer — one Edward Morris — asked graphic designers to create artwork in the spirit of those World War II “We Can Do It” propaganda posters. Except that the Green Patriot Posters are intended to “encourage all U.S. citizens to build a sustainable economy,” according to the Green Patriot Posters website.
So far, so good. But why did this end up on BikePortland? Here’s one sentence from the post: “When [Morris] and his partners set up a website and asked designers to submit posters, they were intrigued by how many of them included bikes.”
Then there was a quote from Morris, which included this: “The bicycle is a nonthreatening, nonideological image, unsanctimonious and almost childlike. At the same time its mere presence is a direct challenge to our car culture.”
Something about all this rubbed me the wrong way. For one thing, I do not agree that a bicycle’s “presence is a direct challenge to our car culture.”
I’m not a great fan of car culture myself, but I’ve always seen riding my bike as simply a way to try to extract myself from the car culture for short period of time, rather than as a way to take up arms against it.
So I pounded out a comment to the BikePortland post.
For whatever reason, the comment did not appear. I don’t know whether BikePortland editor Jonathan Maus didn’t receive it or whether it he opted not to allow it. I e-mailed him to ask, but didn’t hear anything back. UPDATE: Just as I was about to hit “publish” on this post, I checked back and see that my comment has now been posted at BikePortland.
Anyway, here is what it says:
These are cool posters for sure.
But I’m going to jump in here and say that I am a little saddened by the politicization of the humble bicycle. This is something I’ve been feeling for a couple of years now.
I get incredibly frustrated and angry when I see those news items you link to on occasion, Jonathan, in which hard-right politicians start denigrating bikes as being a “socialist plot” or something.
What the hell? I’ve always tried to just ignore them as being so far out of the mainstream that they don’t really matter.
But then, maybe I’m wrong. As much as I hate to see it happen, perhaps cycling is going to — or already has — become another front in the great political war that’s going on these days.
For me, riding a bicycle has never been a political act. Mostly, I ride my bike because it’s fun. I’m just disappointed that this innocent, naive little bubble of childhood that I get to ride around in for an hour or so everyday has probably popped.
Maybe in the end it will be for the best. Maybe this is just cycling growing up.
About the “socialist plot” thing: That referred to remarks made by Dan Maes, the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado during this past fall’s campaign. Yes, this kind of nonsense infuriates me. Bicycling is not a political act.
As it turns out, Mr. Maes garnered all of 11 percent of the vote in last month’s election. Yes, 11 percent! As the Republican nominee for governor of Colorado! 11 percent! Granted it was a three-way race, but apparently a lot of Republicans, too, thought this guy was loopy.
So, yeah, part of me still thinks it’s better to just ignore comments like that than get all righteously indignant about them. Maybe the people who want to politicize cycling are still a small minority (on either side).
But as I said in my comment, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, unbeknownst to me, I have become a Green Patriot. Not because I have changed my behavior, but because times have changed around me. I don’t want bicycling to be a political act. But maybe it’s getting sucked into the swamp, along with just about everything else.
I suspect some will disagree with me. That’s fine. I’m curious to know what you think.