The parable of the cyclist who fixed things for everyone.

A public health advocate, an environmentalist, a transit planner, and a keen cyclist, are walking along when they come across a discarded sleigh with three empty harnesses (one might call that a troika).
From left: a public health advocate, an environmentalist, a transit planner, and a keen cyclist. (Thanks to Australia’s Opposition Leader for modeling). On right, a troika.

The public health advocate promptly jumps into the sleigh, and says, "You guys pull and I’ll steer." A week later they’re all worn out from delivering cheesy posters about riding tandems and flying kites, and notice no one is riding tandems or kite flying these days. It seems no one wants to look like the geeks in the posters. And of the handful still riding tandems, the stokers are defiantly smoking.

The environmentalist pushes his way on board the sleigh. "No more cutting down trees for your posters! Let me do the steering." A week later they have walked around seeking, and finding, a carbon neutral fuel for the cars. This fuel is so cheap and plentiful, the roads now have ten times the traffic. Their nation is stuck at the wheel, eating fast food.

"Get out hippie, I’m driving," the urban transit specialist says. So they all drag him around for a week, as he borrows heavily to spend money on trains. Only when their country is broke and full of overweight people on trains, do they look to the cyclist and remark that he has next to no pulling power anyway, so may as well steer for a while.

Within a week the cyclist has relegated the cars to a handful of roads. The other streets are filled with fit cyclists with money to spare, and all the car parks have been turned into farms. The public health advocate, transit planner and environmentalist wish that right from day one, they had lent their pulling power to whatever best suited the cyclist.

(Thanks to everyone who has shared this link via Twitter etc.. Beneath the flippancy of the parable form, is a real message to stakeholders in cycling. Rather than seeing cycling as a handmaiden to your primary agenda, help cycling flourish, as cycling is, on cycling’s terms. In the end, you’ll reap greater dividends.)  


  1. Steven says:

    Re: tandems and kites

    that your rebelliousness is well disguised?

  2. Anonymous says:

    So the Message of the post is that we should vote for abbot?

    • Steven says:

      oh come on Gus, I’m promoting this on twitter and to the most popular blogs as my single most seminal piece. Are you saying it could all backfire? But hasn’t Abbott retired? I haven’t heard much of him since that election.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear Dr. Behooving,
    You seem to have struck a nerve here. Ha ha ha. You’re playing with an hornet’s nest.
    But you’re right. The whole climate thing has become political, not scientific. And although the pro-anthropogenic climate change camp blame that politicisation on the right, they are just as responsible.
    My advice, Dr. Behooving, is to stay firmly on the fence.
    Fuck the lot of ’em, I say. Imagine yourself astride your gleaming Velorbis, legs splayed either side and off the pedals. Surrounded by the rabid throngs of internet experts, kicking the buggers to the left of you and kick the buggers to the right.
    Whether the climate apocalypse comes or not, you’ll be fine anyway. You are a immortal; a God among mere men.

  4. […] but take the wrong approach to selling their cause. The doctor illustrates this in his “parable of the cyclist who fixed things for everyone” (reposted here in its entirety): “A public health advocate, an environmentalist, a transit […]

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