Saturday, June 19, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

I was struck by a bit of phrasing from my friend Esteban's recent media crit piece on bicycling at FlowTV. He refers to bicycling as,
...a daily practice that eschews the motorized and energy-intensive progress of late modernity and espouses a slower and more sustainable model for how to build a life and a society...
I've been trying to write a post that says pretty much exactly that for a long time. I am especially enamored of the phrase "daily practice" because it imparts an almost meditative, or even a craft-like quality to bicycling.

Along somewhat similar lines, I have been thinking of bicycling as a humane practice, one that imposes little or nothing on those who share my environment: no noise pollution, no exhaust, no danger of being killed or injured. The only thing bicycling demands is consideration for fellow humans who travel by non-dominant means. Although this sometimes seems to be too much to ask, I do firmly believe that more bicycles on our roads means a more humane world for everyone, whether they ride or not.

The idea of bicycling as an entry into larger issues of morality, humanity, and ethical action, and not just boring media buzzwords like "sustainability" or "livability", is endlessly fascinating to me. It's something that Americans started thinking about in the 1890s and early 1900s, when bicycling was not only mainstream, but was, in fact, a quintessential expression of modernity. A return to thinking about the bicycles, along with riding them, is one of the most exciting (to me) things to come of the recent resurgence in bicycle popularity.