Sunday, November 20, 2011

Left or right it's just riding a bike

Recently I attended the annual general meeting of the Citizens for Safe Cycling. (The details of the event are on the CfSC website.) Several politicians were present. From the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) was local MP Paul Dewar. The NDP is considered a left-wing party. Also in attendance was local city counselor David Chernushenko. He is a former leadership contestant for the left-leaning Green Party of Canada. Yasir Naqvi of the provincial Liberal Party (a centrist party) was also in attendance. Neither Chernushenko or Naqvi spoke, but they did request that their presence (signifying support for cycling) be noted. No member of a Conservative (or other right-wing) party showed up. That’s too bad because riding a bike or supporting cycling should not be a left–right notion.

Former U.S President George W. Bush

I must say that I don’t really like all these left and right labels. We affix them to so many things in Canada and it’s really quite ridiculous. For example, if you like to eat granola you are left-wing. Steak and potatoes are for the right-wing crowd because they all must be meat-eaters. Vegetarians are obviously left-wing. If you hunt and drive a truck in Canada you must be right-wing. Unless of course you are a hunting, truck-driving union member. Then you must be a lefty. Do you like nature? Then you must be a lefty. Are you fond of guns and the military…obviously right-wing.

Current U.S. President Barack Obama

Recently, the left–right nonsense has become an issue with cycling here in Ottawa and elsewhere (such as Rob Ford’s Toronto) as well. Quite likely it is anywhere where cycling is on the increase and certain factions have begun to fear that their way of life is under threat. The cycling debate is creating an us-vs-them mentality and small minds inevitably want to lump all cyclists together as left-wing and automobile drivers as right-wing. Even our two major local papers have taken completely different lines on cycling. One is supportive of cycling (Ottawa Citizen) and one is very much against cycling (Ottawa Sun). I think as more and more people start cycling here and elsewhere we need to put aside these silly notions and just start to look at cycling as another form of transportation. Because that is what it is. Studies have shown that the number one reason people ride a bike is because it’s the most effective way of getting from A to B. Other benefits are usually noted, but “saving the planet” or thinking green are far down the list of why people ride bikes.

U.K. Conservative Party leader David Cameron

In so many countries riding a bike is simply seen as an efficient, inexpensive and fun activity. We need to embrace that idea here. Left or right…whichever, it’s just riding a bike.


  1. Great post. I love my bicycle, but don't necessarily love biking, at least not here in Ottawa. I wonder if one of the reasons for that is that I can't help feeling as if I'm involuntarily making some sort of political statement when I'm on my bike here. I'm uncomfortable about that, not because I don't hold political views on a whole gamut of issues, but because I don't like the assumption of which political views I hold based on the fact that I'm riding a bicycle. I would like to have the freedom to get on with ordinary, everyday things without being assumed to be making a statement or having a message for the world.

  2. How about closing the roads to cars on Sundays so the bikes can get out and have fun Ottawa. As in Bogota and many other cities in the world...
    This is a great post, godd catches of politicians. What about a photo of Harper?

  3. Thanks Michael and Hanne. Ottawa does close some scenic drives in the spring-fall including the downtown area. As for Harper...that might be a long shot.

  4. In a perverse way - we who bike are the 1 percent. The 99 percent don't bike!!!

    All I can say is: OCCUPY WINTER CYCLING