Ring a bell: the war for quotidian cycling is over

I’m serious, somebody, please ring a bell, sound alarm, let off some fireworks, or whatever one does. By Christmas 2011, so many people all over the world were riding bikes with mudguards and cargo capacity, treating footpaths as infrastructure if no better existed, and not wearing helmets if they couldn’t be bothered, that everyday-cycling had become as noteworthy as walking the dog. Two years ago, I could drag an interesting blog post from a ride about town on my upright Velorbis. The fact that a post about stylish slow cycling, in 2012, does not belong in a blog concerned largely with future needs, alone stands as proof—at least to my mind—that a war is now won.

The Velorbis bikes are still lovely, though no longer the stuff of interesting blogging.

I was riding up a one-way street in my neighborhood last week, on my upright bike, wearing a hat not a helmet, when I saw a roadie coming toward me. Expecting him to recognize me as the captain of Kooragang Open Cycling Club, and winner of some races in B-Grade over the years, I felt a smile of greeting brewing within me. Given the road in question has officially been blocked to vehicular traffic for 8 or 9 years, I was ready to stop in the middle of the road, and have a chat. Imagine my astonishment, when his hand left the bar, not to give me a wave, but to gesture that I turn back. “One way!” he moaned.

“One way?” I thought. “WTF!?” Had I really been spoken down to, by someone thinking he was a high priest of the crank, just because he wore lycra robes? Surely not, in this day and age. Perhaps he was having a bad day, or had just moments earlier avoided some serious collision, and was thus feeling edgy. No, I doubt it. More likely, he is the last resistance fighter for a system that gave cyclists responsibilities commensurate with drivers’ rights, during a period when cycling for transport dropped to levels I’m glad my children will never know of.

But as recently as 2 years ago, I suspect a jury of our bike riding peers, might as easily have judged in his favour. Lines buried in road laws, about bikes being vehicles, seemed vaguely axiomatic back then, as though Moses had brought them down from Mt Sinai. Today we group holders of such quaint beliefs, with those who would razor a baby boy’s foreskin. Had this pillock not been to the city center, or any city center, to see The New Chaos? When had he last been to Sydney? Had he ever been overseas? I felt toward him as I would any poor pleb, struggling with change. I felt toward him as I feel toward the C,D,E, F and no-grade road racers, among whom I know for a fact he must rank, for if he were any good at the sport he was masquerading to have been training for, I would have known who he was. (Best I keep private, how I do feel toward slower riders, since so many of you are my friends).

The war against pea-brains like “Mr One Way”, was not won with a nuclear bomb, but with thousands of pins placed by each of us who use bikes for transport and to look fuckable. It was won with hundreds of blogs such as this one and this one, by treadlie magazine and the likes, and by people like these and these who took the gamble and ordered bulk shipments of unfamiliar bikes out of Europe. It was won too, by millions of subversive acts performed by us all. Nonetheless, we aught to dance in the streets. We made non sportive cycling mainstream.

6 Comments

  1. Edward says:

    Great post. I think you’re right. I was in Melbourne recently. St Kilda Road in the afternoon reminded me of those marketing videos of Portland Oregon. Cyclists were everywhere. In particular, lots of normally dressed women on sit up cycles and lots of groovy chicks on fixies. Not as much helmet freedom as I saw in Sydney and Canberra but that might have something to do with the very eager Victorian police.
    Times certainly have changed. The attitude demonstrated by Mr One-Way is thankfully a thing of the past.
    I think I need a new bike. My old hybrid does not make me look fuckable. A Vanmoof might do the job.

  2. Steven says:

    Oh no, don’t get a Vanmoof. Is there anyone out there willing to write a “queer eye for the straight guy” type column, here on this blog, to help guys like Edward off of their hybrids? Ed, send me some pictures and a little info about yourself, and we’ll see about making you over.

  3. Edward says:

    Ooh, are you sure? It’s not pretty: lawyer, early 40s, prematurely greying, could be fitter around the midriff, wears beige cargo shorts and a Gazman polo shirt while riding, etc.

    • Steven says:

      Or, “professional man in his prime, girth to show he’s not a narcissist, neatly kept salt-n-pepper hair, self assured with nothing to prove with his clothes.” Let’s put you on a bike that drives women mad, to know they can’t have you, and keeps your own lass acting all nice. I’m seeing you dressed more like John Boy Walton, and riding something like this: http://www.rapha.cc/beloved-every-day

  4. Ian Menzies says:

    hee hee.The same thing happened to me in my one way street.Here’s my theory.Most blokes who wear lycra and ride in packs are’team players’.And as we all know,team players like to play by the rules.Obviously,you’ve offended their sense of fair play,you renegade,you.

    • Steven says:

      they hate it too, when I draft their teams the whole race, then sprint past at the line. Great theory anyway, and sympathetic to competitors who perform a great service.

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