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The Bicycle Menace

An oldie but goldie from the late, lamented PJ O’Rourke, via Ed Driscoll.

A Cool and Logical Analysis of the Bicycle Menace
And an Examination of the Actions Necessary to License, Regulate, or Abolish Entirely This Dreadful Peril on our Roads

Our nation is afflicted with a plague of bicycles. Everywhere the public right-of-way is glutted with whirring, unbalanced contraptions of rubber, wire, and cheap steel pipe. Riders of these flimsy appliances pay no heed to stop signs or red lights. They dart from between parked cars, dash along double yellow lines, and whiz through crosswalks right over the toes of law-abiding citizens like me.

In the cities, every lamppost, tree, and street sign is disfigured by a bicycle slathered in chains and locks. And elevators must be shared with the cycling faddist so attached to his “moron’s bath-chair” that he has to take it with him everywhere he goes.

In the country, one cannot drive around a curve or over the crest of a hill without encountering a gaggle of huffing bicyclers spread across the road in suicidal phalanx.

Even the wilderness is not safe from infestation, as there is now such a thing as an off-road bicycle and a horrible sport called “bicycle-cross.”

The ungainly geometry and primitive mechanicals of the bicycle are an offense to the eye. The grimy and perspiring riders of the bicycle are an offense to the nose. And the very existence of the bicycle is an offense to reason and wisdom.

PRINCIPAL ARGUMENTS WHICH MAY BE MARSHALED AGAINST BICYCLES

1. Bicycles are childish
Bicycles have their proper place, and that place is under small boys delivering evening papers. Insofar as children are too short to see over the dashboards of cars and too small to keep motorcycles upright at intersections, bicycles are suitable vehicles for them. But what are we to make of an adult in a suit and tie pedaling his way to work? Are we to assume he still delivers newspapers for a living? If not, do we want a doctor, lawyer, or business executive who plays with toys? St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, 13:11, said, “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” He did not say, “When I became a man, I put away childish things and got more elaborate and expensive childish things from France and Japan.”

Considering the image projected, bicycling commuters might as well propel themselves to the office with one knee in a red Radio Flyer wagon.

2. Bicycles are undignified
A certain childishness is, no doubt, excusable. But going about in public with one’s head between one’s knees and one’s rump protruding in the air is nobody’s idea of acceptable behavior.

It is impossible for an adult to sit on a bicycle without looking the fool. There is a type of woman, in particular, who should never assume the bicycling posture. This is the woman of ample proportions. Standing on her own feet she is a figure to admire-classical in her beauty and a symbol, throughout history, of sensuality, maternal virtue, and plenty. Mounted on a bicycle, she is a laughingstock.

In a world where loss of human dignity is such a grave and all-pervading issue, what can we say about people who voluntarily relinquish all of theirs and go around looking at best like Quixote on Rosinante and more often like something in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade? Can such people be trusted? Is a person with so little self-respect likely to have any respect for you?

3. Bicycles are unsafe
Bicycles are top-heavy, have poor brakes, and provide no protection to their riders. Bicycles are also made up of many hard and sharp components which, in collision, can do grave damage to people and the paint finish on automobiles. Bicycles are dangerous things.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong, per se, with dangerous things. Speedboats, racecars, fine shotguns, whiskey, and love are all very dangerous. Bicycles, however, are dangerous without being any fun. You can’t shoot pheasants with a bicycle or water-ski behind it or go 150 miles an hour or even mix it with soda and ice. And the idea of getting romantic on top of a bicycle is alarming. All you can do with one of these ten-speed sink traps is grow tired and sore and fall off it.

Being dangerous without being fun puts bicycles in a category with open-heart surgery, the war in Vietnam, the South Bronx, and divorce. Sensible people do all that they can to avoid such things as these.

4. Bicycles are un-American
We are a nation that worships speed and power. And for good reason. Without power we would still be part of England and everybody would be out of work. And if it weren’t for speed, it would take us all months to fly to L.A., get involved in the movie business, and become rich and famous.

Bicycles are too slow and impuissant for a country like ours. They belong in Czechoslovakia…

5. I don’t like the kind of people who ride bicycles
At least I think I don’t. I don’t actually know anyone who rides a bicycle. But the people I see on bicycles look like organic-gardening zealots who advocate federal regulation of bedtime and want American foreign policy to be dictated by UNICEF. These people should be confined.

I apologize if I have the wrong impression. It may be that bicycle riders are all members of the New York Stock Exchange, Methodist bishops, retired Marine Corps drill instructors, and other solid citizens. However, the fact that they cycle around in broad daylight making themselves look like idiots indicates that they’re crazy anyway and should be confined just the same.

The list goes on from there, all perfectly true and accurate to the nth detail, finishing out with perhaps my personal favorite, Number 7 (“Bicycles are good exercise”), although Number 5 is pretty damned good too. Then PJ realizes that the Bicycle Menace is another of those felicitous problems that, eventually, solve themselves.

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3 thoughts on “The Bicycle Menace

  1. Sometimes people are just FOS, as is PJ O’Rourke. The problem isn’t bicycles or cyclists, the problem is government*, just like it always is.

    It’s the damn government attempting to place bikes in the way of cars, and in doing so placing them in the way of pedestrians.

    Q – Was there a bike problem 50 years ago, before the government got involved?
    A – NO

    Bikes are marvelous contraptions allowing humans to move very efficiently. They are not meant to mix with cars and trucks on busy highways.

    *every damn problem in this country is caused by the government, every damn one.

  2. I still have my last road bike. Road a lot long ago and loved it. I hugged the edge, was not one of those entitled asshole riders and never on highways and usually going the opposite direction of bulk traffic.

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    1. I still have the one I road in school from 50 years ago. I once road it from Carolina to the coast, then down highway 17 to Daytona.

      I put it in a box and shipped it back, and thumbed home. The ride on Hwy 17 was brutal even in 1974.

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