Remember when biking used to be a fun thing rather than An Important Thing?

I think one of the reasons why there is a resistance to otherwise nice things like local foods and bicycling concerns the often terminally joyless way their advocates present the Great Social Good that The Better People Who Do These Things create, unlike you, you indolent, planet-killing dolt.

Before it became about Changing the World and Proper Urbanism and Saving the Planet and Fighting Obesity and Duking it Out With Those Planet-Killing Killers in Cars, Yelling at Everybody to Make Bike Lanes and Treating Bicyclists With the Respect They Deserve, riding a bike outside was…fun.

There’s part of me that thinks the fun part of it is a lot more worthy of public investment than many of the Important Social Claims.

Here are some kids messing around on bikes, no bike lanes, no Proper Urbanism, no multi-million-dollar bike parking facilities with lockers. Just bikes, a makeshift ramp, and some kids with free time (on a low-volume suburban street, for you sensitive viewers who will be scarred at the sight of the hopeless desperation in which these children of the Provo suburbs live, in single-family houses, rather than on the lively, sun-loving, Proper Mixed Use Streets of Much Righteousness). They don’t appear to have sidewalks.

The song is one of my favorites about bicycling, from a band called All The Apparatus.

I like how the kid with glasses mans up at the end. Well done, kid.

Wish they were wearing helmets though.

15 thoughts on “Remember when biking used to be a fun thing rather than An Important Thing?

  1. Remember when bikes were for kids and if you were an adult on a bike you were a drunk or a failure?

    • Not really, but I didn’t grow up in a place where people were likely to use anything other but a car, no matter how much of a drunk or a failure they were (I grew up in a rural area.)

  2. If you’re going to come out in favor of the nice, the fun, the makeshift and the cheap, and against the joyless smugness and fear-filled seriousness of “social movements,” then the line about the helmets is totally out of place.

    • Yes, because in Funworld, 100 percent ideological and preference consistency is mandated. So sue me. I worry about them cracking their heads open. I am risk averse.

      I have trouble equating bicycling with a social movement.

  3. Could you provide some examples of the terminal joylessness being spread? Also, isn’t all commuting mostly not fun? Where do road-widening projects fall on the fun-not fun scale?

    • Nope, because I don’t have to—nowhere above do I say sprawl is fun, or that commuting is fun. I do say biking is fun.

      • But who are these “advocates” you mention and where are they claiming to be “Better People”? Most of the bike “advocacy” pieces I read realize that the fun part of biking is one of many benefits. It’s easy to attack straw men.

  4. It is easy to attack straw men, but it’s also easy to proclaim that somebody has constructed a straw man and then criticize them for it. Moreover, let’s get real here: if I have constructed a straw man, it’s not a particularly important one. But it was important enough for you to comment on, so I have obviously hit a nerve not made of straw.

    I’m not going to search through links for you: I work in a field (urban planning) where just about every bike plan starts out with with the “we’re saving the planet with this plan” claim. Instead of, simply, “this is a plan to provide a nice amenity.”

    And if you don’t see that in what you read, perhaps you just have discriminating taste in what you read.

    I don’t think I’m the only one who sees this tendency to make big social claims the center of the biking discussion–given how much the post has resonated with people. Also, see this piece:

    It’s a lot of the same ideas–that biking has a fundamental utility often becomes obscured.

  5. Perhaps this is more of a problem with the planning profession and planning writing, rather than bicycle planning writing. It’s hard to find any planning document that doesn’t contain some of these aspirational statements in the introduction. Perhaps it’s because most planning processes begin with visioning processes that imagine a desirable future state.

    I agree with your position on the fundamental utility of cycling, and to some extent local food, it can and should be about fun and livability (as well as other benefits). Of course, planners also have to write to their audience, and “livability” is perhaps as much demonized as you claim “planet-killing” car drivers are by bike advocates (see here:

  6. Also, I respectively retract my invocation of the straw man, I just wanted some examples. I’ll do some googling.

  7. Even kids who live in single family houses (on low density streets) in Utah obnoxiously throw out gang signs nowadays.

  8. I have seen the attitude that you are talking about. It is pretty pervasive in a lot of sustainability circles.

    I think an equally troubling side of it is the assumption that everyone would automatically live happier, more joyful lives if they just gave up whatever planet-killing consumer lifestyle they currently enjoy, and spent their time biking, growing their own foods, living car-free, etc. It assumes a homogeniety of preference that doesn’t really mesh with the diversity of actual people.

    Some people really enjoy going with local foods -the creative challenge of planning a diet around the cycle of the seasons, doing your own canning, etc. And others cringe at the idea of eating squash and carrots all winter, and really like mangos. To pretend that the latter person would be happier if they just adopted the lifestyle of the former is unrealistic and unfair.


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