By Sami Grover, December 19, 2013
From the notion that the bike lobby is a bigger threat to democracy than oil companies to cyclists as the new enemy of right wing politics, there's some laughably extreme anti-bike rhetoric out there these days.
Only, it's not funny.
True, it's tempting to paint such Agenda 21 conspiracy-mongering as crazy paranoia, and often the comments section on this site will be full of people talking about padded cells and loony wingnuts. But this is not simple madness. It's actually savvy strategy.
Just like the age-old tradition of politicians using racism to divide nations and exploit fears, there are powerful entities who seek to slow or reverse the trend toward increased urbanization and decreased dependence on the motorcar. Not only do they have an interest in keeping the oil-dependence gravy train rolling, but voter demographics suggest that certain political parties have much to lose if the world does keep moving toward an urbanized future, complete with its visions of bike lanes, gay marriage, clever little apartments and raw food vegan fine dining too.
And before all the shouting starts, let me just say that this has nothing to do with freedom. At least not in the myopic, restricted sense that anti-bike fear mongerers use the term.
As I argued in my post on why I do want to restrict your freedom, your freedom to drive your Hummer or develop your strip malls directly undermines my freedom to take a walk or teach my kids to ride a bike. (Not to mention their ability to have healthy lungs or, you know, a stable climate.) We have to have a dialogue about how to balance those freedoms.
To some degree, people are casting their vote already—moving to cities, waiting to learn to drive, and even suggesting that a low carbon future might not be a half bad idea. But assuming that the "free market" (whatever that is) can be a fair and balanced arbitrator is ignoring the fact that the forces of fossil-fuel dependent development have had decades to cement their hegemony.
This is not a government conspiracy, but it is about a different vision of how we want to live. We, as a culture, have to decide the future we want to live in. Then we need to set up our taxes, our planning systems, our government programs, our traffic laws, and just about everything else to shape the path to getting there. The Agenda 21 conspiracists know this, and that's why they are stoking up the fear and derision.
None of this means you have to live in my vision of the good life, any more than I want to live in yours. But it does mean that each of us should pay the true cost of our lifestyle on others. If you want to live in a giant house in the country, go ahead. But please don't make my children pay the price for the cheap gas that makes it possible.