The longer I am away from my working class hometown of Newcastle, the more I am feeling the truth of Marx’s claim that the industrial revolution was creating a new class of people, the working class, who in fact had the power. You feel that in a working class city. More people are members of unions. Conservative politicians don’t even bother to visit. And regardless of the cause, people love rallies.
Things are very different here in Launceston, a city where landlords descend from yeoman farmers aping the English aristocracy, not as it was, but as they perceived it looking up from below. Anyone who has not inherited wealth gained in the era of slavery (the early 1800s) traces their lineage to unfortunate peasants: unskilled labourers queuing to sheer sheep or bale hay, in the knowledge that plenty more people were in the queue to take over the moment they stumbled. Without a cultural understanding of their collective ability to upset the applecart, current generations seem far less likely to organise rallies, form unions, investigate corruption, or unpick the half-truths of public officials. Key stats for crime, healthcare and education paint Tasmania as a dark recess of the industrialised world, which really underlines my main point, that the industrial revolution never quite reached here, and never produced a sizeable working class population of Bolshies like me.
This has everything to do with cycling because without mass demonstrations, cycling is inevitably shafted, simple reason being, there’s no money in it. The landowning community would much rather you all looked after their car dealer buddies and the myriad of other businesses who profit from your car dependence, than steal a free ride.
In keeping with the wildly speculative tone of my blog generally, I would like to propose that bike infrastructure is coming to populations with working class roots more quickly than it is to people whose ancestors provided labour to farmers. Southern and Eastern Europe: no bike infrastructure. Cotton-picking regions of the US: same situation. Tasmania: forget it.
With my next beer I will consider bike infrastructure in the light of the emerging “creative class”, if such a thing even exists.