Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Regular Movements: Ordinary is the New Revolutionary

When we talk about a social movement, we generally mean (as Merriam-Webster defines it) "a series of organized activities working toward an objective." Consider for example the American Civil Rights Movement, or the Women's Movement, or the American Labor Movement. These were the plate tectonics that shifted our cultural landscape and transformed us into a more enlightened and egalitarian society.

Of course, now that (some) workers can collect a fair wage, and women can wear pants, and black people and white people can urinate side-by-side in perfect harmony in public restrooms all over America, it's only natural that we should enter into a period of "movement depreciation." This is because all the big battles have all been fought, and so now we're down to little skirmishes. Consequently, just like matching your grips to your saddle now qualifies as "curating," pretty much anything that's more than one person is doing at the same time now counts as a "movement." This includes riding a bicycle in regular clothes, as you can see in this article about the "Slow Bike Movement" which was forwarded to me by a reader:

Apparently, the Slow Bike Movement consists of "those who eschew speed and spandex in favor of sitting upright and slowly making their way through town in whatever they happen to be wearing that day." In other words, they're people with no agenda whatsoever doing nothing that's even remotely remarkable.

That's all great, but how is it a "movement?" The Freedom Riders of the 1960s were part of a movement, and I suppose the Klansmen were also part of a movement (albeit a twisted and reprehensible one), but the average schmuck who just sat on his couch watching "Mister Ed" and didn't really care one way or the other was not. Today, however, he'd be part of the rapidly-growing "Indifference Movement," and would be the subject of fawning feature articles about these brave preservationists with the courage to maintain the status quo by doing fuck-all and not giving a shit.

It's "passive resistance," only without the resistance.

Of course, like any modern movement, the Slow Bikes Movement is not so much an actual movement as it is a marketing demographic, which is why its spokespeople are bike company owners:

"When I think about the Slow Bike Movement, I think of bikes that allow people to sit upright, see your surroundings, be more visible to your environment that you're riding," says Public Bikes' Dan Nguyen-Tan. "As a company, we're in the middle of this wave of growing numbers of people incorporating a bike into their daily lives."

This is great news, since it turns out that I'm not just a regular schlub when I'm going to the store to pick up bagels. I'm actually a member of the Slow Bike Movement, and this makes me feel vastly better about myself. I guess I'm also a member of the Slow Running Movement by default, since sometimes when I go to get bagels I don't even bother with the bike. Slow runners are those who eschew high-tech shoes and Lycra running shorts in favor of slowly making their way through town in whatever they happen to be wearing that day. This is also sometimes called "walking." When I think about the Slow Running Movement, I think of shoes that allow people to stand upright, see their surroundings, and, most importantly, feel really good about themselves for no reason whatsoever. It's a wave of growing numbers of people incorporating footwear into their daily lives.

And finally, when I eat the bagels, I'm a member of the Slow Eating Movement. Slow eaters are those who eschew speed and special headbands in favor of sitting upright and consuming their sustenance in whatever they happen to be wearing that day:

Though I will occasionally "Cat 6" someone at Subway by trying to eat my sandwich faster than them.

I suppose the "movement" appellation isn't totally unwarranted, though, since it's true the average sub-Canadian has trouble understanding the bicycle when it's not being used as a piece of sporting equipment. In this sense, riding a bicycle in whatever you happen to be wearing actually is something of a countercultural act, which is a sad commentary on Americo-Canadian society. If only we could all move to Vilnius in Lithuania, where the mayor crushes bike lane-blocking cars with tanks, then maybe we'd finally get some respect:

Here's video of the crushing, which transcends "publicity stunt" and goes all the way to "smugness porn:"

“I wanted to send a message” Mr Zuokas told the media. “I want to point out that if you have a car and more money it doesn’t mean that you can park it everywhere. Recently there’s been an increase in this type of parking violations, and it shows a lack of respect for others”.

This is a fascinating concept, though it goes against everything I've been taught as a sub-Canadian. "Respect," as I've always understood it, is something you only use in lieu of money, like food stamps. Then, once you actually have money, you're supposed to use that instead of respect. I didn't think it was legal or even possible to pay people both money and respect. Isn't that a conflict of interest? Once you can afford it, I thought it was your responsibility to treat people poorly and to buy expensive stuff with logos on it. Those logos are basically de facto permits, and they allow you to do stuff like this:

Where's the mayor of Vilnius when you need him? I'd even settle for Mayor Bloomburg on a Big Wheel.

Meanwhile, in Australia, a reader informs me that cyclists are now being punished for getting in the way of people's car doors:

“We have seen a number of incidents recently, particularly in the St Kilda Road area, where cyclists have collided with opening car doors," Senior Sergeant Huntington said.

Naturally, then, the police are cracking down--on the cyclists. This seems akin to punishing a shooting victim for getting in the way of a bullet, but perhaps it's a southern hemisphere thing. Anyway, this is for the cyclists' own protection, since when you have an accident on your bike there's "no second chance:"

"There's no second chance for a bike rider. When involved in an accident it's always going to be a serious incident."

Right, because it's completely impossible to have a non-serious accident on a bicycle:

Laugh if you will, but he died of his injuries only hours later.

Yes, it's essential to keep up the illusion that cycling is a suicidal endeavor, for it allows your local authorities to discourage it altogether and then punish you for your own protection if you have the temerity to do it anyway. The truth is I'd much rather be involved in a boneheaded bicycle crash while I'm on a Slow Bike Movement-style bagel run than a car crash on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, but that's only because I tend to forget it's impossible to get hurt in a car but riding a bicycle is certain death.

Speaking of doorings, I wonder if you're likely to fare better against a car door if you're riding an "incumbent bicycle:"

The above image was forwarded to me by a reader, and while I don't know about the dooring scenario it does turn out that these so-called "incumbent bicycles" do raise visibility issues:

Incumbent Bicycle Car Crash In Oregon And Washington

Having handled many bike crashes (involving cars) in Oregon these last 17 years I know bikers get the bad rap. Often in bike versus car crash and this applies equally well to incumbent bike car crashes. Incumbent bikes are designed to ride lower to the ground making visibility often a recurring issue in bike car cases whether involving settlement or litigation of the injury case.

Biking laws in Oregon and Washington do not differentiate between incumbent bike law and non incumbent bike law so the regular rules of the road apply. I have seen more serious injuries involving incumbent bikes versus non incumbent but I have also seen a much higher knowledge of bike rules and biker expertise of those who ride incumbent bikes.

I still don't know what an "incumbent bicycle" is, though the Peterson Law Office's use of the term does make me doubt their expertise. Perhaps this (forwarded by a reader) is an "incumbent bicycle:"

Or maybe the builder just wanted to know what it would feel like to be a pair of "pants yabbies."


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