The Bicycling Backlash On Both Sides Of The Pond

By Micheline Maynard

How could anybody dislike bicyclists? They’re engaging in a healthy activity. They eschew fossil fuels. They allow garages to be used for storage.

It turns out that there’s plenty of antipathy for bicyclists, on both sides of the Atlantic. And it looks like cycling needs to do something to fix its image.

You don’t have to dig very deep to find someone who thinks bicycling is a bad idea. Not long after Citi Bikes got started in New York City, Wall Street Journal contributor Dorothy Rabinowitz went after the cycling system with both barrels.

Now, Jake Wallis Simons of the British newspaper, The Telegraph, is joining her with his own objection to the bicyclists who are flooding England’s streets.

“These days, it is impossible to leaf through a newspaper without seeing a picture of a politician grinning on a bike,” Simons wrote. “A bicycle has become a symbol of virtue, something that is thought to win votes. Has there ever been another hobby that has received such uncritical endorsement – as well as such obscene levels of funding – from the State?”

Simons noted that in Surrey, residents have begun to rise up against “Lycra louts” who invade the countryside each weekend, taking over roads and filling pubs in their skin-tight attire.

The upset over cycling is being shared in a number of cities, where dedicated bike lanes are popping up. In Toronto, merchants in one neighborhood protested at losing parking spaces to a bike lane, never mind the prospect of more business as cyclists paused to stop in.

In Chicago, cyclists have been tangling with motorists over new bike lanes, even though the pathways are a top priority for the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

It sounds like the backlash has been simmering for a long time. It might be jealousy, it might be irritation, but bicyclists may need some help in improving their image.

How would you suggest calming down the anti-bicycle brigades? Or, is it something that’s just a perpetual part of cycling?


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