Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Does bicycle riding lead to radical thought?

Relying on one's self, physically, for transportation.  Periods of time spent with reduced commercial stimuli while directly experiencing nature, humanity, and community.  Absence of one of the most expensive and enslaving necessities of modern life.  Participation in common and often maligned public transit.  Assumption, founded or not, by others that you are of limited means seeing that you're riding a bike for God's sake.  A brain that is well supplied with oxygen and time to turn over thoughts.  The necessity of creativity when transporting objects and resultant limitations on consumerism foreign to the automobile driver.  Social interactions, face-to-face with neighbors, pedestrians, and other cyclists allowing one to discuss issues of interest without the insulation and amplification of electronic mediums.

All the while, threats from without.  Car and truck drivers isolated from external stimuli, blaring radios, phones in hand, texting.  Hot exhaust, rising temperatures, road rage, global climate change.  Absolute disregard for responsibility and the safety, lives of others.  Communities divided and damaged by highways.  Disgust with the status quo.  Participation in the minority.  Confusion and irritation with the pesky bike in the lane.  Fear of the other.  Passing too close.  Why don't you get on the sidewalk?

Sounds like a recipe for something.  Radical thought?  I would challenge that.  No.  A recipe for thought.  A recipe for discourse.  Comrades.  Let us think.  But perhaps merely thinking is radical in our watered down and anesthetized culture?

And then sometimes we act.  Advocating for safer roads.  Volunteering at a non-profit or charity.  Shopping locally.  Feeding those in need.    Stopping to help a blind fellow find his way to the library.  Calling the police when shit goes down right in front of you.  Asking someone to stop beating a woman.  Running for office.  Pointing out racism.  Not just letting it slide.

Let us ride.  Let us think.  Let us act.

And now, your thoughts?


Peter Esbensen said...

“In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Anonymous said...

Great post.

POB said...

Well said. It's only considered "radical" because too many drones are brainwashed to believe that speaking the truth is a radical proposal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tony, for your post.

This is a bit of a chicken or egg, cause and effect, question. Perhaps those of us who think a bit like you have been drawn to cycling (commuting, not just weekend warriors) because we had what you call radical thoughts to begin with.

I agree with you that being on a bike, commuting, allows you to engage with the world in a far more eloquent and (we think) productive way. I like Peter Esbensen's quote from Pirsig's book. I'd add, Peter and Tony, that cycling promotes a non-violent life style. Big cars and indifferent drivers lead to potentially violent situations.

-- dario

Tony C said...

Hmm. I think the biking played a big role in developing my frame of thinking. Without a bike, and it's increased role for my personal transportation, I could definitely see myself falling into the same well worn life choices that would then consume my funds, time, and quiet time to think.

A job with a long driving commute. Cable TV bills. Car payments. Gym membership and requisite time on the treadmill. Growing dread that retirement would only come when I was too old and broken to enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Well-said. When I started bike commuting (10 miles/45 minutes each way) I did it for one or two reasons.

Now, it's expanded to 10-12 reasons, and I actually get excited for rainy days.

Also, my mind has never been clearer.

Tony C said...

You know you've crossed over when you enjoy rainy days.

Komanoff said...

Gorgeous post. Affirmative, generous, thought-inviting. I'm in my 40th year of daily cycling here in NYC (I'm 65). This post goes in my little collection.

Monkeygirl68 said...

Fantastic piece of writing, and so true. Before I began cycling, I used to be one of those drivers who silently cursed cyclists who I perceived to be slowing me down. After I went on a chance ride with some friends, which prompted me to buy a road bike, I went from a "get off the road" mindset to one of "share the road."

The self-reliant feeling I get from riding everywhere is addicting. It's also made me realize that I don't need much to live a happy life. When I recently moved, the mover commented that I am the only woman he's come across in 20 yrs of service that required only one wardrobe box. I've learned, thanks to my bike, to be less materialistic - which in our consumer-obsessed society, could be considered radical.

Biking Parts said...

An inspiring post. Cyclists and even non-cyclists alike can truly reflect from this post. Thank you for sharing.