Exposing class tensions wherever they impact on cycling

To we yuppies, the slow looking bicycle is as essential an accoutrement as the pooch, and clothes with paint splatters. Our desirable inner city neighbourhoods (please, don’t call them "suburbs") attract so many hermit crab types—you know, they bring their children in from "out there" to play in our children’s parks, then go to our local cafés, as if they’re actually from around here—that it grieves us to be counted among them. Ha, but let’s see them come in from burbs on a Gazelle!

From left: Gazelle; Gazelle; Gazelle; Gazelle.

Oh and they would never think to wear paint splattered old shirts to the café, as we do on Sunday, on our Gazelles, with only thongs on our feet, wearing no helmets, all things they could never do if coming from far away. The painting shirt is to show Barry Barista there, that you have bought in. He only rents. The dog of course—that followed you down, not on a lead—has been an essential accessory to we agents of gentrification for as long as gentrification has been occurring. I believe in New York, tourists can rent dogs, to not look like tourists.

On left: a dog. On right: "Oh shoot, did I really come to the cafe forgetting to take off this belt?"

Place inner city bike paths into this discourse, and you can see why those dears out in the burbs get so irate. Those of us living here in the city, lobbied the mayor for these paths. We needed them, to play on, with these go-nowhere bikes. They’re like little mini-ten courts, only parading as holy transit.

Of course I’m not being 100% serious here, and I know I’m only speaking for a handful of wreckers. Wreckers they are though, and they have a way of seducing you onto their team. Thanks to my friend over at ArchiTakes, for this link to an article with far greater probity than I have been able to bring to the topic. Suffice to say, I’m not the first to observe that cycle paths are a site of class bickering.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    This idea – that bike lanes are a signifier of class – is common enough, but there’s no reality to it out there in the 3D world of green paint on roads (if paint can be considered 3D – it’s suspiciously 2D). The poor people ride the bikes and the rich people drive the big cars – that’s the reality. The “bikes = gentrified elites” thing has traction precisely because it is the exception to this rule of transport mode choice.

    • Steven says:

      I doubt funding would ever be forthcoming for a study to determine the actual split. However, since it is a recent phenomenon, and the one behind recent change, I would say rise in the numbers of yuppy cyclists (like me) is the one most worth remarking upon.
      Is it true that bike lanes are well known signifiers of class? I know we all sense it, but have you seen it expressed in clear terms elsewhere? I’m cheekily bleeding you for help finding references 🙂

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