Cycling as a wedge issue.

From Wikipedia

A wedge issue, when introduced, is intended to bring about such things as:

  • A debate, often vitriolic, within the opposing party, giving the public a perception of disarray.
  • The defection of supporters of the opposing party’s minority faction to the other party (or independent parties) if they lose the debate.
  • The legitimising of sentiment which, while perhaps popularly held, is usually considered inappropriate or politically incorrect; criticisms from the opposition then make it appear beholden to special interests or fringe ideology.
  • In an extreme case, a wedge issue might contribute to the actual fracture of the opposing party as another party spins off, taking voters with it.

*emphasis added

When I think of wedge issues, I’m usually considering those that appeal to people’s feelings or beliefs as opposed to (and often intentionally bypassing) reason, not to mention fairness, the law, and human rights. It can be base politics at it’s most cynical. It’s another reason why I don’t pay much attention to most politics.

After many years as an Edmonton Sun columnist failed mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte, currently running for a federal nomination, knows a wedge issue when he sees it. He likes to fan the flames of hate towards cyclists because, like abortion, same sex marriage, and almost anything associated with fundamentalist religion, it’s a “wedge issue” and can get people fired up – often in the worst possible way – with righteous anger and a sense of injustice.

It’s populist politics at it’s worst – getting people riled up and convinced they are hard done by when they are really nothing of the sort. Or taking a small problem and making it bigger, while promising to do the opposite, to get people’s votes.

And it can work. See Toronto – Rob Ford (“War on cars!”). It’s the opposite of “Revenge of the Nerds”. Something like “Bullies Fight Back”. I’m bigger than you, and that’s all there is to it. Get out of my way, because I’m more important than you.

In a recent Facebook post Diotte inferred he didn’t ride a bike because cyclists look like Pee Wee Herman, insulting cyclists, and Pee Wee Herman for that matter. I guarantee if Diotte was running against Pee Wee Herman for anything he’d get slaughtered.

I think this particular wedge issue has proven to be a failed approach. I might refer to it a a sort of tyranny of the majority, but I don’t think those people are anywhere near a majority. Too many people have kids that ride their bikes, for one thing. He should have stuck with his flawed no-to-everything conservative fiscal policy, not that I’d ever consider voting for him.

One unfortunately predictable consequence is that the antipathy Diotte foments against cyclists can tend toward righteous fervour in some and can lead to a few drivers (strawman alert) massaging the chip on their shoulder with a kind of “I don’t know or care what the law says, they bug me and we need to get rid of them” attitude. “I’m right because I’m bigger than you”. They don’t want us on the roads, they don’t want paths for us, they don’t want a dollar spent on facilities.

And it can lead to conflict and confrontation on the road. Frontier justice. Those same bad drivers (who usually think the are great drivers) other motorists have to deal with can be real bad news for cyclists.

They are stuck in traffic and see a cyclist whiz by on their bike lane and they resent the few feet of space, feeling a sense of injustice. Or they see some kid on a bike doing something stupid and dangerous. I can see where some of that might come from. Some want to be able to drive as fast as they think they safely can with no distractions or delays. Despite, I don’t know, 70%+ of the city’s land mass given over to the motor vehicle, they think the answer is more roads and parking lots.

The main problem, for drivers (not cyclists), is obvious to anyone who has stood at the side of the road waiting for a bus and watched “rush” hour traffic go by – there are too many single person vehicles on the road. All going the same direction, and each carrying the equivalent of two couches, or more, and a closet, among other things.

I’m not inferring any of these people individually are the problem, or that they are bad people. They know what the problem is. They’re looking at it through their window. Too many cars on the road. It’s the cars that are in the way.

That’s why we need to provide alternatives to people, including public transit, cycling, skateboarding, running, and walking. It’s better for them, of course. But it’s also better for drivers who will never get out of their car. I know a lot of drivers who would rather take public transit, especially the LRT, but it doesn’t go where they want (yet). I already know people who ride to work, but I know a lot who’d like to as well, if the facility to do so was there.

One more person on a bike is one less car in driver’s way.

Kerry Diotte is a nice guy I’ve been told. He’s smart enough to know better. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse. What I do know, for sure, is that cyclists can find themselves on the receiving end of a lot of vitriol, and worse, as a more or less direct consequence of something he’s said or done. I’m a big man – I can take it. But I shouldn’t have to. And neither should the kids, students, couples, grandparents, siblings, friends, etc, who only want to be able to safely go for a nice ride on their bikes.

Diotte doesn’t want people to calm down and be rational, because then they won’t vote for him. Seriously.  He’s still selling papers, only now he’s trying to get his name in there. He’s intentionally polarizing and wants to get people talking about him. I’m only doing it once here, and take comfort in the fact I have a small (but mighty) readership that largely consists of people wanting to sell me, and you, dear reader, weight loss products.

At times like this I like to remind myself of the many drivers out there that have been very courteous to me. They are the vast majority. They don’t yell the loudest, and they aren’t angry all the time, so they can become invisible. They are the norm, and the norm, by definition, doesn’t stand out.

When I first began commuting I was struck by how courteous and understanding the drivers were, as opposed to what I had expected. I really didn’t really know what I was doing, and did some dumb things. Never had a single problem with a driver – even in Winter. Maybe it was the fact I adorned my bike with strings of Christmas lights 🙂 .

I think Edmonton is a great city to ride in, and it’s gotten much better. Some of this is thanks to better facilities, but most of it has to do with Edmonton drivers. They’ve been great for me, and the bad ones are the exceptions that prove the rule.

So thanks Edmonton drivers. Sincerely. And I’m not running for anything.

Thieves! Grrrrr

IMG_0456Great. Some asshole stole my handlebars, headstock, and front suspension of my Spot. Image Strangely, they left my wheel sitting there.

The Eternal Debate – Edmonton Bike Lanes

The notion persists that cyclists aren’t paying their way. Cyclists pay, through taxes, like everyone else. The argument can be made they pay more than their share.

Bike lanes aren’t for me. They’re for cyclists less comfortable on the road, or out for a leisurely ride, maybe with kids. Bike lanes also serve to remind drivers cyclists belong on the road.
Continue reading

Elizabeth Solis

I generally avoid posting tragic bike stories. They’re usually significant enough to warrant localized media coverage, including major media. They get so much attention it can obscure the fact that cycling, by and large, is safe if we apply due care and attention, and have a safe place to ride.

Riding a bike was clearly one of Elizabeth Solis’ great pleasures. She was an experienced cyclist who rode predictably and made sure she was highly visible to drivers, wearing a reflective vest whenever she road. She took safety seriously.

Elizabeth Solis and Edmund Aunger in New Brunswick on their way to PEI

Most if not all regular riders have experienced being caught on “The Wrong Road” because there weren’t any other options. It’s unpleasant, and the kind of road Sovis consciously avoided. They made her nervous.

She and her husband Edmund Aunger were biking along a two-lane highway in Prince Edward Island this summer when she was struck from behind by habitual drunk driver Clarence Moase.

On Tuesday December 12, 2012, Moase was sentenced to six years in prison (and, I believe, a lifetime driving suspension). He had four prior impaired-driving convictions.

Aunger had mixed feelings about the sentence, saying he was afraid locking someone up wasn’t going to change the real problem, and referring to Clarence Moise as a scapegoat

“We need to create safer bike trails to ensure no one else dies the way my wife did.”

Elizabeth Clovis planned to spend her retirement helping develop safe cycling trails in Alberta – a cause Aunger is hoping to carry on.

Read more at CTV News

Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton
Published Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 11:03AM MST
Last Updated Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 1:13PM MST

Taking the middle of the lane

Nice blogpost from Bikeyface on taking the middle of the lane. Great illustrations. 🙂

“Whenever a person first discovers I bike, they reply with a story. And it’s always the same story.

“I was driving down [insert any road name] when all of the sudden I saw a cyclist in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!” Inevitably it always ends with them saying they “just tapped on their horn” or “squeezed by” or“yelled out to the cyclist.” 

And many many times I’ve been the cyclist in one of these stories- the one sharing the road with a driver that isn’t aware of the basic road rules regarding bikes.

What’s worse is that sometimes reasonable people panic at the sight of a bicycle in the lane… and then all that reason flies out the window.”

Doesn’t always happen to me, but its happened for sure. The drivers who get upset that a cyclist takes the lane aren’t usually assholes. They’re most often regular folks like us who aren’t aware of the rules.

I believe its a natural consequence of driving (or cycling) that anything that slows us down or causes us to take an action irritates us. When I’m in a car (as a passenger) and there’s a cyclist in front of us, perhaps taking the lane, I too begin to feel irritated. I don’t know that there’s any getting around it. I do believe being aware its a natural consequence for all of us helps me temper any irritation I may feel, because I know its not really anyone else’s problem but mine.

Cycling in Calgary

Calgary is where I was born. I moved to Edmonton in my early teens, moved back to Calgary in my 30’s, and have been in Edmonton since about 1992.

I visit every once in awhile, but I’ve never cycled in Calgary. But I can’t help but notice they seem to be taking cycling seriously, with an excellent Calgary Herald section/blog called Pedal.

The last two posts have been most interesting; one about a group of kids that continue to ride to school through the winter like its no big deal, and another about the City of Calgary hiring a “cycling coordinator.”


Bridgestone Picnica

Bridgestone Picnica

A friend picked up one of these beauties at Goodwill this week.