Mass Movement on Two Wheels

Chris Carlsson, one of the original founders of the Critical Mass bicycling movement, writes, "a funny thing happened during the last decade of the 20th century. Paralleling events that transpired a century earlier, a social movement emerged based on the bicycle."

Heck, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Carlsson’s article appeared in an academic journal called Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture & Action (PDF). It’s good stuff but not the lightest reading.

This curious, multifaceted phenomenon constitutes an important arena of autonomous politics. The bicycle has become a cultural signifier that begins to unite people across economic and racial strata. It signals a sensibility that stands against oil wars and the environmental devastation wrought by the oil and chemical industries, the urban decay imposed by cars and highways, the endless monocultural sprawl spreading outward into exurban zones. This new bicycling subculture stands for localism, a more human pace, more face-to-face interaction, hands-on technological self-sufficiency, reuse and recycling, and a healthy urban environment that is friendly to self-propulsion, pleasant smells and sights, and human conviviality.

Photo: Famewhore/Flickr

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