What is it about bikes that sends right wingers into a paranoid, frothing rage?
Sci-fi dystopias are an honorable and storied tradition, depicting all manner of imaginary future societies where fascist politicians use technological innovation to create authoritarian nightmare societies. Places where teenagers are forced to fight for the death for the public’s entertainment. Or where women have been stripped of nearly all human rights and some are forced into breeding for couples that can’t have children of their own. Or where the government control of the population has come to the point where there’s a TV screen that monitors everyone in every home. That sort of thing.
Well, right wingers have their own version of a dystopian sci-fi world, but being a rather literal group, they are convinced that it’s real. They call it “Agenda 21” and the claim is that it’s a shadowy U.N. conspiracy to remake the world into an a dystopian hellscape from which there is no escape. Raw Story’s own Travis Gettys has a report on the conspiracy theory and how it’s creating problems in the real world as paranoid wingnuts flip out when local governments try to engage in any kind of environmentally sustainable development or try to make community spaces more accessible and easier to use.
Urban planners are sometimes surprised when they’re accused of plotting to undermine capitalism and sovereignty by taking away their neighbors’ cars and forcing them to live in cities, reported The Post and Courier.
Death! Destruction! Forced relocation! Soooo scary.
What is going to be the source of all this dystopian misery and destruction? Well, when you dig in a little, you realize that it all basically comes down to one thing: Bicycles.
“High-density urban development without parking for cars is the goal,” said Rosa Koire, of Democrats Against U.N. Agenda 21. “This means that whole towns need to be demolished and rebuilt in the image of sustainable development. Bike groups are being used as the ‘shock troops’ for this plan.”
“Sustainability is a buzzword that you hear about all the time, and you hear about how they want mass transit and people riding bikes to work,” said John Steinberger, chairman of the Charleston, South Carolina, County Republican Party. “Blocking a lane of traffic coming in to Charleston from West Ashley to create a bike lane is an example of that thinking.”
Yes, while typical dystopian fantasies involve things like state-mandated murder or an overbearing surveillance state, the deep-set fear that is making conservatives nationwide interfere with attempts to improve urban and suburban development is the fear of having to see people out on the streets riding bicycles. Sure, you might think that seeing the ass wiggles of people who dare venture out without a ton of gas-powered steel around them might be, in the grand scheme of things, so small a sacrifice that it calling it a “sacrifice” does disservice to the word “sacrifice”. But right wingers know: Jesus died on the cross so you don’t have to see those horrible two-wheeled monstrosities called “bicycles” while zooming around in your SUV. You may think a bicycle is just an energy-efficient and fun way to get around, but wingnuts know that it’s actually an attack on freedom itself.
“We want the freedom to drive our car and work on our schedule and do the things needed to carry on with our daily lives,” Steinberger said.
And that freedom is taken from you—ripped from your very heart—if you happen to see someone out on a bicycle while doing that.
But surely people who are riding bicycles also deserve freedom to get around? Hells to the no, fellow Americans! First of all, as the inevitable trolls that this piece will attract will explain, bicycle riders are the only people who have ever ventured on America’s streets and sidewalks who ever break the law. They and they only speed, roll through stop signs, or forget to signal. Car drivers would never do that. And don’t point out that having bike lanes actually makes it more likely that bicyclists will obey the law. That is untrue! Bicyclists are a demon race of law-breakers who break the law due to sheer evil, and so reorganizing the streets to accommodate their needs does little but give into evil itself.
Indeed, no one has ever ridden a bike for a good reason. They only do it because they are part of an underground Agenda 21 conspiracy to ride bikes to usher in the new world order. It’s a simple three-point South Park style plan: 1) Ride bikes. 2) ????? 3) One world government.
I mean, there are probably some lone wolf bicyclists who aren’t part of the conspiracy, but they, too, are evil. They’re only there to make you feel mildly guilty about how the only exercise you get in the day is pushing your garage door opener, surely. There can be no other motivation beyond taunting you. Sure, they say it’s because they like getting out and exercising, but since they aren’t real human beings but pure evil under a bike helmet, it must be because they are out to get you.
In all seriousness, the right wing conspiracy theory about the supposed attempts to “force” people to live in cities isn’t just about bicycles. There’s a bunch of hand-wringing about urban density and mixed use zoning, all of which is rather unsubtle fear-mongering from white suburbanites who fear the racial diversity of cities. But that the paranoid ranting always comes back to bicycles and bike lanes is fascinating to me.
Why is the bicycle the symbol here? I don’t know that it’s as simple as resentment of people with active lifestyles, though I will say that fits overall with the conservative tendency to act like all sorts of pleasures—lattes and wine, having sex, anything associated with “hipsters”—is some kind of conspiracy to make them feel bad about themselves and how uncool they are.
But I can’t help but think it’s also because the bicycle is actually a pitch-perfect symbol of a certain kind of freedom that, despite all their bellowing about “freedom”, is disallowed by the paranoid, conservative mindset. The car, particularly oversized trucks and SUVs, is actually a form a shelter, a tank you hide in to protect you from the world. While driving the open road is fun, most driving is actually not free-feeling at all, but about the tedium of trying to navigate traffic. In contrast, bikes feel far more free. You are getting around relatively unencumbered, squeezing into small spaces and interacting directly with the world, instead of being ensconced in steel and glass. I can see how, if you’re one of the many Scared-Americans who fears the outside world and just wants to tuck away inside an SUV and a suburban house to avoid it, the mere existence of a bicycle might be a searing reminder of your own personal flaws.
But hey, that’s your problem. It doesn’t actually mean that bicyclists are out to get you. Most of them aren’t even thinking about you very much, and they certainly aren’t out there as “shock troops” trying to force you to move to dense urban areas. After all, for those of us who live in dense urban areas, avoiding people who have that small-minded conservative worldview is part of the reason we live here, so why on earth would we want to force them to be our neighbors?