Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bicycling and Urbanity.

From Boing Boing TV. The following video depicts a July 25th rally where a police officer knocks a cyclist to the ground:

Boing Boing reports, "Although a judge ruled in 2006 that the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides could proceed without a permit, the NYPD's stance remains somewhat adversarial. Though the city has not been enforcing the controversial parade permit law when it comes to Critical Mass, police have been ticketing cyclists during the ride for such infractions as not having the required lights.

A representative for TIMES UP! tells us that the cyclist in this video was arrested, held for 26 hours, and charged with attempted assault and resisting arrest."

Although I am a bicyclist myself and I am sympathetic to those submitted to arbitrary police harassment and violence, I wonder if the tensions that arise between cyclists and the rest of the urban community (commuters included I suppose) are not symptomatic of some larger shifts going on in urbanism in the United States in general. Certainly, we should connect Critical Mass to a wider and longer tradition of bicycle activism in the city, like the 1960s Dutch movement the White Bicycle Plan which placed free white bicycles around Amsterdam to discourage the city's restructuring for easier automobile commuting, at the same time it also either exemplifies or partakes in the petroleum crisis that encourages the white flight back into city centers and all the boutiquing and negative gentrification attendant with this flight (e.g. any theory by Richard Florida). Moreover, yesterday's National Public Radio broadcast included a story about realtors cashing in on these trends, here.

The following interview with George W. Bush at the Beijing Olympics sets these relationships into an even more interesting relationship. Where Bush discusses being a teenager riding bicycles with the Chinese people and in the background newly produced automobiles rumble through the streets of Beijing--"look at them now!" The bicycle is some sort of communist throw back, or at least an index of a backward economic situation.

As Beijing progresses in its petroleum hungry capitalist development, the US regresses backward into a bicycling and the arms of the "creative class".


John Foster Cartwright said...

I have looked at that "creative class" website...like...50 times. I just don't get it. It confuses me. What?

SkidMarquez said...

The "Creative class" is a theory by Richard Florida (of CMU fame) that city development occurs because a "creative class" moves into a city and starts developing creative infrastructure (galleries, show spaces, coffee shops, etc.) and they move following cities where these types of events and venues exist. This according to Florida is why NYC is so expensive and the creative class will pay more to live there. Often they are computer programmers by day and in a band/producing art, etc. by night (I don't know many people like this). So this has become the new model for gentrifying cities.