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Bike Movies = Bad for Bikers?

In his new column, Omnibus, Justin Glick asks whether films glorifying the eccentricities of cycling communities backfire in their attempt to get their enthusiasm for their chosen rides across to a wider audience.

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Am I the only one who finds the current stream of films about cycling and “bike culture” a little off-putting? I love a good round of bike-jousting as much as the next guy, but is this the best way to draw the public towards cycling? The more cycling gets tagged as an “alternative lifestyle” culture, the slimmer the chances of getting a majority of Americans on two wheels.

Here’s the question: is it better that we try to get people excited about cycling by creating a buzz about it, emphasizing the gear, and trying to make it cool? Or, is it better that cycling remain as boring as possible so that it’s seen as the humdrum, obvious way to go about your day-to-day errands? I tend to fall into the latter camp; we’re looking for complete bike saturation here, not just among the hip set. Naturally, there’s room for both, but maybe we should allow the notion of the bicycle as primary means of transit take hold before we push the former too hard.

This is why I couldn’t wipe the grimace off my face while that whole bike clown business was going down in Williamsburg. For those of you who missed it, there was some pretty serious ruckus raised when long-time community members tried to get a newly painted bicycle greenway removed due to the fact that it interfered with their businesses and schools. To protest, a number of young locals dressed up in some outlandish outfits and rode up and down giving out fake tickets in an attempt to bring attention to the situation (pictures here). It’s complicated story, and one I don’t really want to get into in too much detail here. But really, bike clowns: I want you all to take a good long look at yourselves in the mirror:

Waxed moustaches, crazy hats, outlandish flowerpants — and I want you to ask yourself, is this really helpful? Is this the best way to sway public support towards investment in cycling infrastructure? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “No, no it’s not, you idiots.”

That being said, I’ll see you at the 2009 Bicycle Film Festival.

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Tags: biking

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