Why Bicycling is evil
I read bike magazines for passion.
If I want to read something well written I’ll buy Harpers, McSweeney’s or a goddamn book. If i want news there’s Financial Times or the Economist (at least they are upfront about who they serve) and some amazing RSS feeds and podcasts I can listen too just as easily as I can buy paper.
Bicycling magazine doesn’t do a damn bit of good to educate new cyclists. But it does deliver a desirable demographic to advertisers who are quite clearly enemies of cycling. Strong local club scenes are what develop racers and solid riding habits. Hell, the Internet is about 100x better than Bicycling at introducing concepts of cycling to a starry eyed and wide audiences without strong local scenes.
Let’s not think we need to rely on Rodale to shove the idea of riding to work and for life down the gullet of middle-america. Bicycling(the act, not the magazine) doesn’t and shouldn’t need general interest publications. The barriers to bicycle access and acceptance in this country are doubly political and cultural. Everyone knows how to ride a bike. Manufacturers make bikes that are not intuitive enough, not reliable enough, and not-ungeeked enough to make riding a fine bicycle for practical uses seem as natural as getting in your car. A niche magazine does nothing to help. Fitness cyclists can become bike commuters- but if they think the solution to every problem is a product- what good is that?
Organizing- advocating- exhorting for the right thing is most effective on a local level. 2 people who give a damn and get themselves elected to the local planning commission, town council and actively wave banners and advocate loudly and truthfully causes a thousand times more change than 1200 words sandwiched by infographics and erectile dysfunction. IBD point of purchase displays announcing “your partnership” with BikeTown, USA prove nothing. It means Trek or Giant gave you a placard to help move units.. Steve Pucci has done more for bicycle racing in America than Bicycling Magazine.
National advocacy means dealing with national government and national media- which clearly doesn’t give a fuck, never gave a fuck, never can and never will give a fuck about anyone or anything that doesn’t wave dozens of thousands of dollars in front of it’s face. It matters what Rodale does in their own community- and they do great- but they don’t exact spread the love outside PA. Just look at what they’ve been making money off of lately, fad diets, feel good and Gore Bluster. They try hard to be good corporate citizens, and I feel like they are- but they are also just a publishing company. They make deals with the devil everyday to stay afloat- and one medium sized turd in a cesspool full of utter money-grubbing shit that is for-profit mass-media is no more than a lighthouse on a shoal warning all of us not to get too excited about the possibility of change.
Unless you want a Fred Junta telling you to raise your stem, put a hole in your saddle and wear a helmet, and ride on the bikepath give up on Bicycling ever helping Bicyclists in any meaningful way. Give up on the media in general. Become the media.
A niche magazine that makes cyclists look like bigger narcissistic buffoons than we really are(which is a feat in and of itself), on the face of it more concerned with fitness than access- gear than beauty- is of no benefit now or in the long run.
Consciousness, Change and Capital Exchange. It’s 2010 y’all. We can make it happen ourselves.