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Riding bicycles and social resistance

BYCS posted an article about “the inherent resistance of cycling” by James Crossley. It summarizes how riding a bicycle goes against the grain of mainstream society, and so is an act of “resistance.”

When someone makes a voluntary choice to cycle despite the danger, this is a choice to put oneself in a position of vulnerability. While usually vulnerability equates to weakness, when that vulnerability is voluntary it becomes a challenge to a biased and inequitable mobility system that idolises strength and power. It questions ingrained urban hierarchies that too many take as scripture, and in doing so shows solidarity with those who cycle in adverse conditions for lack of other options.

I will note that riding a bicycle is only “inherently” resistant by accident of our present moment in history. The domination of car transportation is a deliberate design choice by our society. If we didn’t prioritize cars in our communities, and if biking, walking, and all other forms of transportation could compete on equal footing, then the dynamic would be much different.

But Crossley is correct, at least about our current culture. This is why I don’t always encourage everyone to bike commute even though I’m a huge proponent of bike commuting. It is, unfortunately, not for the faint of heart. Most people don’t want their daily commute to be an “act of resistance.”

We have many steps to take before we can make biking and walking first-class mobility options, but one of them is having enough people who are willing to shoulder the burden of resisting mainstream car culture. I think it’s important to be honest with ourselves about what our “resistance” is like, and why we do it.

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