The League of American Bicyclists posted a recent entry titled “Beyond Spandex, Toward Social Justice: Women Redefining the Movement“. Men, who have made up the statistical vanguard of ridership in the past, are relegated to an acronym, MAMIL, i.e., Middle Aged Men In Lycra. We subsequently learn of the efforts to be more inclusive, making sure that womyn (League’s spelling in one instance, not mine) and minorities are included in cycling.
I think it is great to have more people on bicycles, as long as it is not a politically-driven desire for more butts on bikes. Cycling should not be a class or gender based activity. Nor should cycling be restricted to those wealthy enough to afford something picked from the Bicycling Magazine Annual Review of Outlandishly Expensive Bikes pages. If that had been the case decades ago, I would not have been riding. Likewise, infrastructure, whether in the gentrified or rough side of town, should be examined to ensure it is not unduly impeding people from using a bicycle as either transportation or avocation should they want to do so. Bicycling should be a choice available to anyone who really wants to ride, but should not be something we hit people over the heads with as a moral statement of a greater good. Certainly there are a lot of good things to say about bicycling, but when it is reduced to a recipe for saving the earth, saving the individual from cardiac care, or saving the world (all of which the simple bicycle can play a role in doing), it becomes hopelessly entangled in weird politics.
Certainly, women have their own needs, whether it be bicycles designed for the female anatomy or cycling activities that fit into very busy and complicated lives. Not that the men I know don’t have similar time constraints. We have a woman who works in my group who has been trying to find time to ride competitively between work demands and the demands of a single mom with two small children. Being a new rider, she wanted company on the road. That’s being worked on, including me occasionally changing my riding schedule so I can coach her. Surely, to be inclusive, we all need to look inside ourselves as cyclists, ask what we can do to encourage others who don’t look like the guy in the mirror and who have different situations, and reach out to them. That’s advocacy up close and personal.
What worries me about that post, as well as other stuff on the League web site, is whether there is more between the lines, i.e., a sea change in the League’s agenda. Has the League entirely stopped being an organization of avid bicyclists and instead thrown its heft behind current trends in urban planning, anti-car advocacy, and the purported advocacy needs of non-cyclists, i.e., those things we are told to do so someone who has not been riding changes their mind? As a card-carrying MAMIL, I can’t say I can speak for anyone else, so they need to speak for themselves, both within and outside of LAB. But who speaks for me? Do we need a League of American MAMILs? Jusk kidding….