My last post about loving my commute made me remember an article I read a few months ago: Are Urban Bicyclists Just Elite Snobs?
Though the article’s not about commuting per se (nor is it necessarily about snobbery), it does explores the image of the urban cyclist in many of its layers, from its dependence on bike-friendly infrastructure and the way that the existence of that infrastructure (or not) leads to tricky relationships with other roadway users. It’s pretty good, actually, now that I’m re-reading it. There’s one part, though, that I’ve often thought of since I initially read it and that came back to me after my last post about loving my commute.
Jeff Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution, mentions a certain smugness that cyclists may be prone to have, a self-satisfaction with making choices that are good for the environment and their own health. The article mentions that he
thinks the smugness factor is almost accidental: “I know a lot of cyclists who say their commute is the best part of their day” — not exactly the kind of thing that the co-worker who just spent an hour in gridlock wants to hear at the water cooler. And just like “I don’t have a TV” guy, those who eschew modern conveniences can rub people the wrong way.
I think about that when I spout off about how much I love my commute (or post pictures about how awesome it is:). I don’t mean to be that person, the one who won’t ever shut up about how awesome the choices she’s made in her life are. But for realz, I do love my commute. And I do think that a lot of people would be happier if they left their cars behind. So what’s a girl like me to do–keep gushing, knowing that some people are going to dismiss me as one of those smug cyclists, or pretend like my commute is just as mundane and boring as anyone else’s?
In the article, Will Doig talks about the semi-proselytizing nature of bike commuters–semi-proselytizing because in part the ability to travel safely by bike depends on a critical mass of people doing it. So it stands to reason that sometimes someone like me gushing about their awesome time spent biking to and from work seems a little threatening, like I’m trying to somehow passive-agressively convert everyone away from their evil car-ful ways and turn them all into bikers or something. Which is not the case. Though I do think that a lot of people who currently drive would actually turn out to really like biking if they tried it too:)
But I think what it comes down to is a larger problem that no one wants to be truly excited about things–or, put another way, a problem that real, honest-to-goodness excitement or joy about something is automatically suspect. I can’t simply like my commute that much, that would be weird. I must want something out of it–either the accolades of my coworkers or their conversion to a bikey lifestyle. And though I guess if I’m being perfectly honest I wouldn’t mind either, neither one is why I like my commute, or why I talk about liking my commute. I just fricken like my commute, and when I get to work on a beautiful morning feeling refreshed and awake and alive, when I’ve heard the birds chirping around me and breathed the fresh air and felt like part of the world, I can’t help it that I’m psyched.
So here we are again. Have I mentioned that I love my commute?:)