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Nonviolent Transportation

by Ted Johnson

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And I’m at work.

(No, it’s not because I live in Arizona. We actually do have this holiday here — although you may remember that our state was notoriously reluctant to observe the holiday. Rather, it’s because of FedEx. I work for an online retailer, so if FedEx doesn’t have the day off neither do we.)

With all my advanced Googling skills, I was unable to find a photo or quote that shed light on what Martin Luther King may have thought of bicycles. Perhaps he viewed them, as many people still do, as symbols of poverty, and inequality.

Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Denver

Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Denver, Colo.

But I’m thinking that somewhere in the complex mix of motivations I have for cycling rather than driving a car, is the belief that cycling is a relatively nonviolent form of transportation.

As I am writing this, there is a customer in the showroom who is sharing his homicidal fantasies toward the person who stole his bike recently. So, obviously, not every cyclist is necessarily a believer in, or a practitioner of nonviolence.

But, to state what should be obvious, when you bike, you are responsible for less environmental destruction than you would be were you in a car. When you bike you are less of a participant in the politics and economics of petroleum and their violent foreign policy implications.

And then there’s the mere lethality of motor vehicles. I’m certainly glad that the homicidal customer currently in the shop will leave here on a bike — and not driving a one ton weapon.

I get to bike home now.

 
Burley nomad 229

5 Responses to “Nonviolent Transportation”

  1. Tom Bowden says:

    To me, the intersection between King’s legacy and cycling is simple – it’s freedom. But in saying that I hesitate, because freedom of choice in our mode of transportation is a trivial issue in comparison to freedom from persecution and prejudice based solely on the color of one’s skin, as championed by King. Perhaps the slights and prejudices we feel as cyclists, trivial as they are, can give some insight into the anguish and indignity of those who bear prejudice and discrimination based on the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religion (or lack thereof), or their gender. At least we can choose not to ride if we can’t take the heat. King spoke for those who had no choice, and he paid the ultimate price for doing so.

  2. Graham says:

    I also rather think that Dr. King was a huge proponent of peacefulness; in protest and in yourself.

    Speaking only for myself, walking and bicycling have always helped me cultivate a peaceful mind.

  3. BluesCat says:

    “The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “Riding a bike is the right thing to do for our physical health, our mental health, our personal financial health, our national financial health, and the environmental health of our planet.” – BluesCat

    “One Speed: Go! Get up. Go ride.” – John Romeo Alpha

  4. kimelah says:

    I wasn’t even aware it was Martin Luther King Day. I live in Canada; maybe that’s why? But it’s odd that just recently I was thinking of parallels between Rosa Parks and cycling.

    When I think about the trials of cyclists in my city, I think of the trials of black people. I think of Rosa Parks. Just as black people were yelled at, given the finger, had things thrown at them, and made to go “elsewhere”, so are cyclists—who ride on roads as a vehicle—are yelled at, given the finger, have things thrown at them from cars, and told to go “elsewhere” that being on the sidewalk, or some other place. But Rosa Parks needed to ride the bus, and the only available seat was on the “white” side of the bus. Rosa Parks went to the spot where black people weren’t allowed, and sat there in the place of her choosing, until she was physically removed from that spot by the police.

    I think we cyclists need to perform a similar feat. We need to just put ourselves where we know it’s alright to be—in the road—where no one is going to get hurt, as long as people keep their cool. As long as the cyclist follows the rules, and the drivers follow the rules, and each gives way to the other when needed—and when possible—there will come a time when cyclists in the road will be seen as “of course! where else would they be?” Just like black people are accepted in society and people say, “of course! where else would they be?”

    I think, like the black people of a half-century ago, we need to quietly yet firmly state our rightful position in the grand scheme of things, which is as a vehicle, on the road. Not necessarily with the other vehicles, as a bike can’t always travel as fast as motorized metal boxes, and maybe some cyclists simply don’t feel comfortable at such high speeds on two wheels, but alongside other vehicles. We just need to do it.

    (Yeah, that’s me speaking, me who is terrified to ride on the major arteries due to my perception of uncaring, rude drivers. Gonna have to work on that.)

  5. Lisa Black says:

    Freedom of choice in transportation contributed enormously to womens’ emancipation – which is something I remain very pleased to have.

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