Privileged people

The Palo Alto Daily Post recently published a LTE in which the writer claims cyclists are a ‘privileged class.’

A privileged class

Typical of government programs driven by a “cause,” Palo Alto’s focus on bicycle safety promotes a privileged class. One which can behave as
obnoxiously as any other. This may be what concerns Diana Diamond in her much reviled recent column on the subject.

[...snippage...]

Establishing a privileged class — bicyclists — there as the City’s traffic department hankers after, and this writer demands will only increase rudeness and discourtesy as it has on Bryant Street, but in this case will do not one whit for anybody’s safety.

Erasing privileged classes is what this country is all about. It’s high time we started thinking about that.

Anybody who looks at the square miles of pavement, budget priorities, and building codes knows the almighty motorist are the truly privileged caste in American society. And when people try to establish even a little parity for people who dare to walk or bike in the public space, some car-addicted motorist whine about the few square inches taken from their government funded throne room.

Toronto’s newly elected mayor Ron Ford was famously congratulated by hockey commentator Don Cherry (annual salary somewhere north of $500K) for rising up against “elite” cycling advocates.

The idea that the majority of people biking to work are society elites or “privileged” is ludicrous. In Palo Alto and any other college town, the majority of bike riders are probably college students. In other cities, they’re likely recent immigrants who can’t afford a car. To marginalize people and give them ridiculous labels that apply to the name caller is just stupid.

And that’s my opinion of that Daily Post LTE.

7 Comments

  • December 14, 2010 - 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Richard – it’s unfortunately just another example of political spin, and you know if you can frame the debate using your terms you are much more likely to win.

    As you said, labeling cyclists as elites is just a way to make them an “arrogant other” that everyone can detest. “Scofflaws” and “entitled” are two other terms the opposition frequently resorts to. Scofflaws for one absolutely boils my blood because every time I ride I see vehicles rolling stops, running reds, passing with less than 3 feet clearance, yakking on cellphones, and speeding to name just a few vehicle code violations.

    One of the best ever frames was “owls vs. jobs”, which enabled PALCO among others to continue looting old growth redwoods for years when the verifiable primary reasons sawmill jobs were disappearing were factory automation and offshoring to mills outside of USA where wages and safety standards are lower.

    The recent “government option” label for the public option in health care debate was another classic, and a recently surfaced email showing the head of Fox News commanding anchors to use the term “government option” instead of “public option” is just grist for the mill, so to speak.

    Can we come up with some good ways to re-frame the debate? “Subsidized road-hogs” and “Tarmac tyrants” are clunky so it should be easy for someone to do better.

  • Archergal
    December 14, 2010 - 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Trufax.

    Around here, most of the folks riding for transportation are Hispanic and African Americans, mostly men. And me, a middle-aged white woman. Hardly the “elite”, unless that word means something very different from what I think it means.

  • December 14, 2010 - 10:09 pm | Permalink

    unless that word means something very different from what I think it means.

    Inconceivable!

  • Nick/295bus
    December 14, 2010 - 11:29 pm | Permalink

    SUV-driving welfare queens?

  • December 15, 2010 - 12:21 am | Permalink

    I was partly inspired by Tom Vanderbilt’s latest post and then I forgot to mention it.

    Tom writes: “In the city of the future, we need to pursue policies that allow for safe, efficient and affordable transport of the many, while recognizing that market-based approaches that so rationally apportion space in the private sector can and should be applied to the valuable urban space — in the form of roads and parking spaces—that cities essentially give away.

  • December 15, 2010 - 12:21 am | Permalink

    I was partly inspired by Tom Vanderbilt’s latest post and then I forgot to mention it.

    Tom writes: “In the city of the future, we need to pursue policies that allow for safe, efficient and affordable transport of the many, while recognizing that market-based approaches that so rationally apportion space in the private sector can and should be applied to the valuable urban space — in the form of roads and parking spaces—that cities essentially give away.

  • December 15, 2010 - 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Dictatorship of Drivers

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