I try to follow the old maxim: Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you. I try to obey the rules of traffic, be courteous to others, and, when I bike in the city, like many cyclists I get an adrenaline rush helping the environment. However, sometimes this sense of personal freedom is fleeting when interacting with other like-minded people.
On May 6th, I attended “Bike Culture Summit NYC 2010” — shout out to Brooklynbybike for the extra ticket! The Summit was an event sponsored by the NYC’s month-long bike-centric series of events used to promote biking in NYC. I was fashionably 10 minutes late – since I can’t afford nice clothes, tardiness is one way I express my cool sense of style.
I missed the short film that was shown but got there in time to have the three panelists introduced to the audience. They were all experienced New York bicyclists. The panel consisted of David Herlihy, author of “Bicycle” and “Lost Cyclist,” and a foremost historian of bicycling; “Bike Snob,” a blogger who talks about biking in New York City and Caroline Samponaro, Director of Bicycle Advocacy for Transportation Alternatives and a long-time cyclist.
First question was about bike culture. Frankly, I was a bit puzzled by it. My initial motive to bike was to save money and, as cliché as it sounds, to save the earth I also hug trees naked (blissfully mimicking Julie Andrews) whenever I see an open field.) Ok, I sound more like William Hung but that’s not the point.
More questions started popping up, from how to make the street safer for cyclists to bike storage in buildings. I asked a question about bicycle clutter in NYC. There’s everything from rusty bike locks to remnant bike parts, since it’s almost guaranteed if you leave your bike outside, somebody is bound to steal your seat, wheel, or handle bar. You name it; they’ll steal it! Unfortunately, my question wasn’t taken seriously. One of the panelists sarcastically mentioned that NYPD did clean the clutter when President Obama came to NY and that was the end of the bike summit.
I was a bit disappointed by the event, since the summit’s audience was also predominantly occupied by middle-aged to senior male Caucasians and my friends and I were women of color. Anita also jokingly mentioned how negative the audience was since most questions raised were about why we aren’t doing anything to solve our problems. That’s when I realized that I had sounded like an officially grumpy old white man. Hooray…?
Anita’s comment pointed out that I wasn’t (Walter Matthau), making me realize that the NYC cycling community is stratified and highly political, glaringly obvious at the summit where there few female attendees and even fewer minorities.
When I experience something nice, I just want to share it to the world. For me, biking was and always has been bliss. It’s never cultural, never complicated to me and most of all, never political. Biking should be simple and fun, it’s the small things that make me happy, and biking is one of them.