Monday, April 02, 2007

Hate speech

Anyone familiar with the mountain biking newsgroups is undoubtedly aware of net kook Mike Vandeman and his unrelenting rants against mountain bikers and their impact on his cherished wilderness. Now we have another one, but his focus is on road cyclists in San Francisco. But, I wonder...we've never seen the two of them together...I wonder if....

Rob Anderson wrote in his District 5 Diary:

"Many city cyclists are poor ambassadors for their dangerous, foolish avocation, running red lights, intimidating pedestrians out of crosswalks ...the bike zealots are very aggressive politically. ...the bike Nazis---excuse me, I of course mean the Cycling Community---will be at the table making sure that whatever is being discussed meets with their approval. And they are not just pro-bike, they are anti-car, anti-parking, anti-anything that makes it convenient for any of the 367,570 people in SF that own a car to drive and park in the city. ...the bike zealots have been successful so far in foisting their dangerous hobby onto the larger political community. "

(I refuse to provide a link to Anderson's blog.)

There's more, lots more. It's typical of the anti-cycling screeds that pop up every spring, as predictably as the blooming idiots. What makes his rant different from the run-of-the-mill is that he insists that San Franscisco must do an environmental impact assessment before establishing the bike lanes. To any reasonable person, this is obviously a frivolous pursuit. If the city isn't changing the contours of any stream or if it avoids infringing on sensitive habitat, the addition of a paint stripe on a roadway will have zero impact. No, it appears the intent is to delay the bike facilities and add to the costs. If he could make it expensive enough, the city would simply drop the whole thing.

Like San Francisco, our major cities are becoming far too expensive for people with modest incomes. Many of us just couldn't afford to live there. So these urban areas are attractive to our young people, who more easily adopt the bicycle as their main transportation mode. If the choice is paying the rent or owning a car, the car loses. Are we moving toward a bleak apocalyptic future where our cities are populated by roving gangs of strangely clad people, rolling through the streets on fixed-gear bicycles, their tattoos and piercings jarringly offensive to the finely attuned sensibilities of suburban dwellers? Is it a bicycling version of "Escape from New York"? Reading Anderson's blog, you'd think that San Francisco has already been over-run by hordes of barbarians on bicycles.

One local advocate says that we have a duty to oppose 'hate speech' whenever we encounter it, and while I agree that it's necessary to do so, I can't state categorically that it's necessary or even desirable in this case. Mr. Anderson's views are rigid and unlikely to change. There's no merit in engaging someone like him in dialog. No one's attitudes will be changed by getting involved in what amounts to a verbal mud wrestling match.

The only worrisome aspect of all this is the idea of using environmental laws as a means of opposing and delaying public facilities. I can certainly envision a small town deciding to avoid building some facility when faced with a protracted and expensive lawsuit. They just couldn't afford it. And it bothers me that someone would use the court system in such an anti-democratic manner. But it shouldn't surprise any of us. We live in a country where money is the ultimate arbiter, after all.

As any regular CycleDog reader knows, I'm not a fan of bike lanes. They're a solution to a negligible problem. But I'm even less of a fan of the hate speech spouted by Anderson. Is that too fine a distinction? Or is it simply recognizing that there are degrees of bicycling advocacy, not an all or nothing approach.

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Blogger Paul Tay said...

More hate speech: mushy blue strawberry jellybeans BITE.

1:38 AM  
Blogger Apertome said...

Anderson is spewing nonsense, that's for sure, but I'm not really a fan of calling it "hate speech." The guy is seriously misled and obviously on some kind of anti-bike crusade, but "hate speech" carries connotations of victimisation, and I don't think we cyclists should feel victimised by stuff like this.

I read a little of his blog, and you're right, though, it's pretty incredible to read. I especially like the mountain bike rants combined with talking about his own horseback riding, which does a whole lot more damage.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

I simply got bored with Anderson's blog and quit reading. There's more humor coming from Tulsa City Hall.

9:34 AM  

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