A New Myth for Cycling

Another brilliant essay from Mighk:

The Galactic Empire of Star Wars could just as easily be our current Gasoline Empire.  This Empire, which I named The Tyranny of Speed in another post, depends entirely on the belief that streets are primarily for fast-moving cars.  Overthrowing the Empire will require people behaving in ways contrary to the Empire’s desires. Segregated bikeways are not at all contradictory to the Empire’s belief system; indeed, they fit it perfectly.

Go there and read it now!

11 replies
  1. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    The problem, as in the movie series, is that it isn’t rebels vs empire but it is us vs ourselves.

    Motorists are convenient scapegoats, but they are people too.

  2. Keri
    Keri says:

    The essay isn’t about fighting motorists. It’s about countering the culture of speed and the belief that roads are only made for cars. It’s about replacing old beliefs that keep us down with new ones that set us free.

  3. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    A fascinating essay. And I agree that changing the myths that provide the organizing principles of our lives is the only way to achieve fundamental change.

    For example, the most profound recent change in the southern USA is the overthrow of the “Jim Crow” regime in the 1960’s. This involved a fundamental change in the mythology of who is “us” vs. “them,” and what “the other” is like.

    I do disagree with Mighk’s conclusions, based upon practical reality. There has never, ever been a decent bicycle mode share created anywhere on planet Earth without adequate supporting infrastructure. Mighk’s ideas, alas, have a 100% record of failure.

    This is something that caraholic motorists seem to understand for themselves. They have no problem advocating for segregated car infrastructure. Even although the resulting car expressways blight our cities.

    Those who have lived where there is proper bicycle infrastructure never want to cycle without it. European cities like Copenhagen went car-crazy in the 1960’s. They recovered and restored the bicycle to its proper place with appropriate infrastructure. We can do the same.

    I also agree with the comment about PSAs. They need to promote cycling positively and ditch the culture of fear. Here is a wonderful 32-second example from Hungary of an ordinary guy cycling to work:


    • Keri
      Keri says:

      I was able to play the first one. Nice!

      But this one gives me an error on YouTube. I’ve tried on Firefox and Safari. It opens the youtube page, but the movie shows a black screen for a few seconds, then says “An error occurred, please try again later.”


  4. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    The link seems to be working fine for me. Khal seems to have had no problem either. I do not know why you are having issues.

    That’s too bad, because, in my opinion, it is one of the finest bicycle PSAs I’ve ever seen. It is cute, sassy, funny and delivers a clear contrast between the two middle-aged couples. The cyclists are fit, smiling and happy and have wonderful sex. The car drivers are grumpy, unfit and the man is clearly unable to satisfy the woman who then flirts with another cyclist.

    What makes it work is that everyone knows it is true. A lack of exercise and physical fitness tends to render one unattractive and unfit for sex.

    All in only 85 seconds. Priceless!

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      Alright. I plugged in my old door-stop PC and launched a version of Internet Exploder so outdated YouTube scolded me that they plan to stop supporting it any minute now. It played on that.

      Very cute!

      But now I want to know why it won’t play on either of my Macs in 2 different browsers, but other youtube movies play fine.

  5. eddie
    eddie says:

    There are a lot of things that Mighk writes that I agree with, but this “cyclist as hero” is embarrassing and sad.

    The VC have went down this path before with Forester and turned off so many people that I am surprised to hear it brought up again.

    I don’t know what message he hopes to relay.
    Is it that there is only one safe, acceptable way to ride a bike, and all that deviate should be ridiculed as fools and cowards?
    Is it that the street is inherently unsafe and those that try to change public policy are naive?

    safe routes to school, a bogus dream? I see no reason why a seven year old couldn’t ride in old town key west, or baldwin park.

    It may please some to think that there are a special few who know the one true secret.
    To me, it reads like arrogance wrapped in a cultural metaphor.

    • Mighk
      Mighk says:

      Eddie, you seem to be reading more into the piece than I put in it. You’ll get no argument from me that our streets need to be redesigned. The question is how? To encourage the kind of integration found on Duval St? Yes! To create the kind of segregation that is already causing unnecessary crashes? No thank you.

      I’m sorry if it read like “arrogance wrapped in a cultural metaphor” for you. I only meant it to be “competence and confidence wrapped in a cultural metaphor.”

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