Over the years, this blog has had great fun bagging on conspiracy theorists.
In almost eight and a half years of writing Shot In The Dark, I’ve mixed it up with 9/11 Truthers, Triggers (people who believe Bristol is really Trig Palin’s mother), Ronulans who think that there’s a conspiracy to build a trans-American highway, even people who believe (I’m not making this up) that Karl Rove sent a sniper team to shoot down Paul Wellstone’s plane.
But the most irritating conspiracy theory is one that I’ve encountered almost exclusively on the right – the theory that riding a bicycle unwittingly ties you into a shadowy international network of Fabian socialist Bilderberg cap-and-traders. All sorts of conservatives and “conservatives” believe this – from Jason Lewis, who is, bless his heart, the father of modern Minnesota conservatism, but is half-wrong at best on the “bikes and taxes” issue, all the way down to some of our “less-gifted” brethren.
So I want to establish two points before we move on:
- I ride bike. Lots. From March into December, I do most of my commuting by bike. I love it. It’s fun, it keeps me within shooting distance of “in shape”, and I just plain enjoy it. It’s also financially more efficient, which is an utterly conservative point as well.
- I am at least as conservative as you are, and probably more so. Whoever you are.
Which brings us to this piece, by one D. Dowd Muska. I’ll let you figure out which category D. fits into.
There is something profoundly wrong with a nation where more adults ride bicycles than children.
America might now be such a nation.
Along with every single nation in the world, really. Even in countries where biking isn’t the most affordable means of transportation for the regular schmuck, bikes are more common among adults everywhere.
While kids sit at home texting their friends and slaying computer-generated monsters, a growing number of their parexnts and grandparents are clogging the roads atop a contraption that was once considered a child’s toy.
The bike became a mass-market commodity item long before the automobile became affordable to most Americans. In many places, the bike was the first ticket the working stiff had to get off mass transit or quit walking, in those days before cars (and manufacturing jobs) became ubiquitous. In some parts of the country, the move to build paved roads was driven initially by the number of bicycles on the roads.
For the working stiff who couldn’t afford (and didn’t want to deal with the upkeep of) a horse, the bike was the original muscle car.
Two odious ideologies fuel the popularity of bicycling: anti-obesity extremism and eco-lunacy. Pedal power, we are told, will not only make you thinner, it will reduce your “carbon footprint.” (It’s a Nanny State twofer.)
Already slim, or pursuing other means to lose weight? Like your SUV, and don’t swallow the discredited theory that man is baking the planet? Then obviously you’re an idiot.
Well, then, by the opposite token – if I”m not already “slim”, prefer biking as a matter of personal choice (something most of us conservatives uphold!) to “other means of losing weight” (which are usually both less healthy for you and also bore me stiff), and don’t believe in global warming, does that make D. Dowd Muska an idiot?
In 2003, BusinessWeek asked Andy Clarke, director of state and local advocacy for the League of American Bicyclists, to respond to the fact that 500,000 Americans commute by bicycle. The figure was “pathetic,” he snorted, “for a nation that should be smarter and wiser.”
While this bit is utterly disconnected from the rest of Mr. Muska’s piece (it’s a non-sequitur, really), honestly, so freaking what?
A “community organizer” said something stupid yet arrogant and self-serving. This reflects on the individual biker exactly how?
Exactly the same way as some stupid quote from Pat Buchanan or David Vitter reflects on conservatives and conservatism at large; not a bit.
Feeling themselves superior to their countrymen [Objection: Assertion based on facts not in evidence – Ed.] in both health and environmental consciousness, many bicyclists flout road rules.
As opposed to “many” automobile drivers who…flout road rules. I mean, I”ve watched Cops; how many high-speed chases of bikers do you see?
Writing in the Rocky Mountain News, Arvada, Colorado resident J.M. Schell admitted that there was “a very, very good reason so many view those of us who are cyclists as rude, arrogant jerks. Most of us are.”
Which reflects perhaps on one J.M. Schell – for whom I don’t believe I ever voted as my spokesman, by your leave, Mr. Muska.
I personally find that rudeness and being the smallest vehicle on the road don’t go well together. There are ample reasons to amend motor vehicle laws so that bikes and cars can share the road better – but that’s the subject of a different post.
Recklessness and lawbreaking notwithstanding [Indeed, utterly logically unconnected – Ed.], Big Bicycle has attained the status of a lobby that cannot be ignored. “Bikes Belong,” an agitprop shop “sponsored by the U.S. bicycle industry with the goal of putting more people on bicycles more often,” boasts of “12 professional staff, 18 volunteer directors, and a $2 million annual operating budget.”
As a conservative, I personally am fine letting companies (and groups of companies) spend their own money their own way.
“Maximizing Federal Support for Bicycling,” a page on the organization’s website, explains that it spent $1 million on lobbying between 2002 and 2005, which ultimately produced “$4.5 billion for bicycling and walking in SAFETEA-LU, the … transportation law passed in August 2005.” Where did that money come from? You guessed it: the federal gas tax. (Four out of every ten dollars raised by the levy are diverted to non-highway expenses.)
OK, I’m confused here. Is Mr. Muska’s piece a slam on bikers as people, or a riff on transportation spending policy?
Because if it’s the latter, Mr. Muska is on to something. It’s the same “something” almost all conservatives have been on all along (gas tax funds should go to roads, not light rail or wind-powered pedestrian walkways or whatever. That is an actual policy discussion – as opposed to mindless and contrived name-calling.
Is bicycle-commuting a credible traffic-fighting tool? No, says Cato Institute scholar — and avid cyclist — Randal O’Toole. “I don’t think encouraging cycling is going to reduce congestion or significantly change the transportation makeup of our cities,” he said. “There really is very little evidence that any of [these efforts] are reducing the amount of driving. They’re just making it more annoying to drivers.” (O’Toole observes that telecommuting is far more common, and growing faster, than getting to work on a bike.)
And now we’re getting somewhere! Telecommuting is a response of the free market to the uptick in energy prices, to road congestion, and a slew of other motivations.
So, for that matter, is biking, for many of us.
Bicycles are wonderful, of course. For children. Only misanthropes complain about stopping or yielding to safely accommodate a couple of twelve-year-olds pedaling their way to the fishin’ hole.
For adults, bicycling has become a finger-wagging, revenue-pilfering, and increasingly obnoxious crusade.
If you buy into the conspiracy theory – that we bikers become tools of the vast two-wheeled conspiracy the moment we saddle up? Perhaps.
But as that noted conservative tool the Utne Reader noted, conservatives (including me – I’m quoted) ride, too – for impeccably free-marketeering, libertarian, conservative reasons.
John “Policy Guy” LaPlante focuses, unsurprisingly, on the policy side of things, for the most part, in his response to “D”.