Sunday, September 09, 2007

How do you protest?

The rantings by substandard journalists at the Herald Sun recently have renewed the consistent feeling amongst utility bicyclists that the print media has a distinct anti cyclist bias and has a fixed long term agenda that runs counter to the ocasional motherhood style article they drop in to suggest that cycling is good for you, the environment, the economy and the world.

They want two bob each way obviously, but repeatedly trot out absurd contributions and rehash old news tainted with bias and rhetorical embellishment.

On the interweb forums there is comment on the need for a protest ride to urge the Herald Sun and its ilk to see the folly of its Bicyclist bashing ways.

For this to have any measure of success it would require a substantive movement to appear united.
I am not being negative, on the contrary the sentiment is correct, I firmly believe the print media repeatedly offers absurdly anti cyclist pieces, but let no one be under the impression that the bulk of society will support a protest either .
Why?, because too many of the general populace and those within the subordinate positions in industry , commerce and the media are too afraid of the power of others.

It is a rare household that doesnt have a bike, yes, and some even get ridden, some households use them as their primary means of utility transport, and as we are seeing , every year, more bikes are sold each year than cars.
OK, all that is clear, we, the riders know the benefits of cycling, we extoll them, we also know that governments all , state, federal, local also extoll the benefits of cycling, however, why is it that nothing concrete gets done to ensure the roads are safe for cycling and that the media isnt consistently supportive of those who ride beyond giving them an opportunity to bash, denigrate and incite against?.

Each year we have bicycle protests in the form of mass rides, monthly across the world there are various CM rides with differing results (eg: NYC Police see them as a political threat and control with a jack boot- Athens Georgia see it as a community festival of spirit and commensense transport alternatives, ( but theirs is also know as Courteous Mass) as opposed to the regular CM ride) most others fall somewhere in between depending on local polictics).

Annually, worldwide, is the Ride of Silence (, and these garner support from riders and sentiment from the media ( as it involves deaths in memoriam as its main theme ).
The Amy Gillett rides have strong support, again as these involve deaths and the riders supporting the notion of safer roads and that safer outcomes are possible from co-operation). Yet still the media trot out their regular anti cyclist stereotypical rhetoric.
Advocacy organisations like Wheels of Justice, ( this , keeping riders abreast of current issues and worldwide utility cycling intiatives and news, positive and negative and give riders a forum and opportunity to comment, protest and garner support for lobbying and access to resources when individual rights are aggrieved, plus resources to write the letters to those who can carry influence or form policy.
Bicycle Victoria is usually silent as is observed by its own forum readers and only succombs to agreement on the "naughty cyclist" statement and "tut tut"... it does little positive to bring the media into line, because it cannot. It has a need for the media in supporting promotion for its sponsors, it's public events and thus is compromised by its own policy and needs to survive.

Forums like this blog and those Webbased and Usenet forums such as aus.bicycle etc allow the converted to vent their spleen , and as we have seen recently, the media to "spy"and grab quote for out of context senasationalising in their own poorly crafted offerings. So what is the answer? 7 out of 9 want to form a protest ride... this needs to 7, 000 or better, 70, 000 to to have an impact beyond making us feel better.

BV claimed it had 40, 000 members (dubious claim and probably more likely the number of members ever in its whole history) it now publicly claims it has 20, 000 members, ( but even if it does, like the general population it will be hard pressed to get them motivated to form a protest ride, just like it is hard pressed to get a decent sample of members to vote at its board elections.)
Prove me wrong, let's do a ride, sure...but we need massive numbers to get the press to see the error of their ways, but you know something tells me it wont make a difference... !!
They ( The print Media) will still trot out their nonsensical inciting, their rants of journalistic gutter raking and lazy research, because they appeal to a readership that will not change its rednecked view easily and will also find comfort in their ignorance of matters commonsense, because they know no better, they and their readers don't want to make any change to that comfort zone of rednecked spin-out selfish "I'm all right jack bugger you" and "get out of my way" attitude. That is the spin that typifies the pitch of the Hun and The Terrorgraf and their ilk. I dont buy newpapers anymore, I make my protest by ignoring their daily paper consuming output of tree consumption. It isnt a green thing, its their content, it is biased, plain fact is hard to find amongst the spin and the opinionated twisted story line. If it is earth shattering and important it isnt going to come out in the print media first. Seriously do we really need to read in newspapers about the summation of every nuance of AFL, the ads for rip-off car sales or job ads that are non descript nonsense, maybe expensive real estate adds that promote agents first and vendors last?, because when you remove the opinionated story lines there is nothing else. Print media is a dinosaur, if believe we will see very little of it on our streets withing 5 years, on the contrary we will see many more bicycles on all our streets much sooner than that. The protest began when more than three centuries ago the French mathemetician Jacques Ozanam described the theoretical advantages of a "human powered carriage" in which on can drive one self wherever one pleases without horses, that ran on the will power of the operator and provided healthy excercise to boot. ( cf: "Récréations mathématiques et physiques" 1696 ).
This freedom is the very thing we see as the zest of cycling, however those who are ignorant of that zest's benefits see the obverse, they see it as the very threat to their agendas, their commercial influences and their power over your mind and your body. A little deep?, not really, think about it and you will see why the bicycle can be the dominant means of personal transport, physical excercise, healthy activity and mental therapy...all aspects others want to control for profit...with the bicycle they miss out... need we say more! Ride, be visible predictable and legal... and ride proudly, together the bicycle will always be there for you when the others have fallen by the wayside. In the meantime, sure let us have a ride, even many of them, but also let us all ride every day, everywhere we possibly can.

That is the protest that will carry more weight than a one off protest ride. Stop buying newspapers, write to them and tell them that, and spread the word to all your friends and within your networks, stop feeding this cancer on the butt of sensible tranport choices and commonsense human dignity.
There is no more noble invention than the bicycle, there can be more noble a persuit with it, than we ride it, more often with more friends and family and workmates. ... that is the purest protest

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