Edward Abbey on Biking

It doesn’t really come across on this blog, since why should it really, but I read a lot. Lately, I’ve been reading a bunch of environmentally-themed books, including a few by Edward Abbey. (Yeah, the guy who wrote The Monkey Wrench Gang, though I actually haven’t read that one yet.)

Anyway, I was excited to find the following bikey gem, written all the way back before I was born, in Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast, a collection of letters Abbey wrote throughout his life (the emphasis is mine) :

Tucson Daily Citizen, 12 November 1981


Dear Editors:


Allow me to offer a modest proposal for a solution of Tucson’s disgusting, exasperating, nerve-wracking traffic problem — I mean bicycles! And bicycle streets! There are many thousands of us in this mad fungoid city who’d be happy to ride bicycles to work each day if only we didn’t have to fear being knocked into surgery, intensive care and wheelchairs by some marginal humanoid with a penis problem driving his double-barreled eight-cylinder tractor-wheeled 4×4 high-rider up and down the city streets. Reserve at least a few streets for human-powered traffic only, and at no expense whatever to us taxpayers; with vast reduction in private expenses, at great benefit to the public air and public health and the public treasury and the public equanimity, we could make Tucson once more what it once was — a decent, clean and pleasant town for full-grown human beings. With its balmy, arid climate and gently rolling terrain, our city offers the perfect outdoor laboratory for such a simple and worthy experiment.


Sincerely, Edward Abbey — Oracle


(Note to editors: I’d be happy to write a feature article on this subject if you’re interested.)


Postcards from Ed


Ha! You tell ’em, Abbey! I don’t know that I’d call the people I see around me “marginal humanoids with penis problems,” but, truth be told, I sort of know what he means. heh.

Too bad it didn’t, so far as I know, really work out for Tucson yet.

I know that Abbey’s often characterized as a cantankerous old man, and he sort of is, but I’d totally recommend this book or anything else by him (at least, any of his books that’s I’ve read, which is a steadily growing number;). He tells it like he sees it, unapologetically, and I appreciate that. Plus, I know not everyone’s into this, but he was a big proponent of banning personal automobiles from National Parks, which I’m all about. In Desert Solitaire, another excellent book that I read while I was touring through Utah, he might as well be my soulmate: “You can’t see anything from a car,” he says, “you’ve got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk.” And “a man on foot, on horseback, or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourist can in a hundred miles.”

Abbey’s not exactly known as a bicycle advocate, but it’s nice to see that cycling isn’t an isolated issue. If even grumpy old men like Edward Abbey want to ride bikes, it can’t be all bad, right? ;)



  1. Love Edward Abbey and his truth telling. I can identify with him a great deal and understand perfectly well that most anyone that is a truth teller will be considered cantankerous, negative or otherwise abnormal in some unhealthy way. The problem is that what has come to be the “norm” in our country is really nothing more than ignorance, laziness, apathetic non-participation, resignation, and going along with the program. Those like Abbey are change agents and as such, must be relegated to the sidelines and eschewed so that the truth will not be heard by the many. Thanks for sharing this morsel from such a foresighted and wise individual. You too are an agent of change and are doing a great service. Keep up the great work Stasia.

    • Hey, thanks for the comment!

      I totally agree that apathy/ignorance/non-participation/lack of real thought is a big problem (one that I for sure am also guilty of sometimes), but what’s the solution?

      I guess that’s a question for you if you ever come back and read this again: change does happen sometimes despite attempts to stifle alternate voices and a not-always-conducive environment, right? How? I’m not sure I deserve being called an agent of change yet when I still haven’t even figured out how it happens! :)

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