I have a new raincoat. I bought it to test strangers’ IQs and it is already working. I chained my classic city bike outside my favourite cafe, and waltzed inside wearing my coat. I had the great fortune of finding myself sitting beside two advocates of mountain bike tourism, who I could overhear plainly. “These guys who ride around upright…” (they were referring to me) “…have no idea what cycling is really about, riding a real bike downhill through the bush. It’s as exciting as snowboarding, surfing…[bla bla bla]” Should I have recited my list of race wins to them, challenged them to a mountain bike ramble, or asked them where they were 20 years ago when I was getting invitations from pro teams (as I recall, vaguely, I could be wrong)? Hell no. I was eavesdropping, and marvelling at how something so simple as raincoat—admittedly, one you could see from the moon—can confound people with narrower outlooks.
I am really tired though of grassroots bicycling advocates. By my count, there are only a few hundred informed ones in the whole world: not enough to share between the world’s cities. My city is lucky. There might actually be a few who have read Pucher, or Copenhagenize, or at the very least Bike Snob. But their authority in the eyes of local government, is derived from the number of cyclists for whom they speak. This is problematic, because the cyclists they speak for only ever express myopic self-interest.