Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Wrong Kind of Smugness

Cycling community, I am disappoint.

Image credit: Peter Drew.

I'd seen the above image once or twice online, but I hadn't really thought about the social implications of it until I read Lovely Bicycle's post on the "fit/fat" controversy as it relates to drivers vs. cyclists. (I also didn't know the graffiti was as widespread as it apparently is.)

Look, people, I'm not against smugness. Lord knows, I take great pride in my tiny carbon footprint, even as I consume my roughly ten pounds of meat per day and take care of my three cats, whose combined non-biodegradable "leavings" for 2011 could probably build a structure the size of Angkor Wat. Yes, I have even been known to wear a T-shirt proclaiming my transportation method's lack of fossil fuel use for all to see. But something about trumpeting your smugness over weight and/or fitness just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

To state the most obvious problem with signs like this, not all drivers are fat and not all cyclists are fit. Some of those drivers are dedicated gym rats, and some of those cyclists (like me!) don't partake in any exercise other than transportation cycling. Some drivers are vegan raw-foodists who carefully analyze every calorie that comes into their body, some cyclists (me again!) would subsist on a diet entirely composed of candy necklaces and peanut butter if their spouses would let them. And I see a lot of cyclists (when you are one, you pay attention), and aside from the spandexed athletes, cyclists come in all colors, genders, and yes, sizes. True, you don't see many 300+ pound people on bikes, but that's likely more of a structural issue with the bikes themselves.

To state the second most obvious problem, cycling isn't great exercise. Oh, it's better than sitting in a car, of course. Most activities are. But compared to other sports like swimming and running, and especially when you consider the reduced speeds and mileage of transportation cycling vs. sport cycling, there's just no comparison. According to Dave's Bike Blog (which cites a bunch of science-y folks), "riding a bicycle 20 miles at an average 15 miles per hour is equal to running 5.6 miles at any speed." Considering that most commuters/everyday riders don't clock nearly 20 miles per trip, and also ride somewhere around 8-10 mph, it becomes clear that transportation cycling is only a marginally more effective exercise than working a slot machine. At least that will tone your arms.


At 10 MPH, I don't even burn off the bugs I swallow whilst riding.

I even think these measurements are too generous to cycling, because they don't factor in coasting, which you don't do in a paceline or athletic event but which takes up at least a quarter of your time when everyday cycling on a non-fixed-gear bike. Nothing feels as good as coasting down a gentle hill, it's the closest thing to human flight that isn't hang-gliding (and far more accessible), but calories burned? Somewhere between zero and one, I reckon, and less than that if you're eating a candy necklace while you coast.

Think about it: The bicycle was invented because people were too lazy/impatient to walk everywhere and horses are a PITA. (Also, they have an annoying tendency to die off during global cataclysms.) The same impulse to save time and energy underlie the choices of both transportation bicyclists and SUV drivers, and while I can rail against the driver for contributing to global warming and suburban sprawl and the death of untold millions, I can't rightly claim to be less lazy than him or her. Let whosoever among us is the least lazy cast the first stone, and man, casting stones is work. As is finding parking spaces, which is something that I almost never have to worry about. (See, it's perfectly possible to be smug over things besides weight!)

Image credit: Peter Drew.
To state yet another obvious problem, signs like these further prop up the falsehood that fatness is always unfit, and that thinness is always healthy. Anyone who's struggled with an eating disorder knows that the latter is definitely untrue, and there's quite a bit of anecdotal evidence on the Lovely Bicycle post re: larger, fit commuters that invalidates the former. I'm not too keen on the martyr-type attitude that often comes with fitness advocates, anyway. You see it in Cathy-level jokes about foregoing dessert or boasting about how many hours you've plugged away at the gym, with no hints that fitness can be fun or fulfilling. What does "fitness" mean, anyway? Wikipedia (always a trusted source!) defines physical fitness as "a measure of the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist hypokinetic diseases, and to meet emergency situations." Nothing about this definition relates to weight specifically, and it's not a state that requires intense training (or dessert skipping) to achieve. Personally, I would like to see the concept of "fitness" dumped, to be replaced with a more holistic view of physical activity that doesn't require setting aside time for exercise. For 95% of people, daily transportation cycling or walking combined with smaller activities like climbing stairs instead of taking elevators is all you need to achieve a level of fitness that is perfectly adequate for any of your needs. Anything else is just gravy.

In closing, you have the right to feel smug over the person who drives a mile to the gym. But not because you're fitter than them, because you might not be, and it doesn't matter anyway! There are so many reasons to champion bikes for short-haul urban transportation, ones that don't require shaming a large (no pun intended) segment of Americans who are likely going to be put off by your exclusionary slogans.

23 comments:

  1. Sent this page to a head-up-his-ass buddy who is infected with this particular strain of smug. Recently got into an argument with him over the antisocial behavior of him and his cronies during the monthly or bi-monthly critical mass in LA...they will often slap car windows, pelt vehicles with empty beer cans, and he feels it's justified! Glad to see someone who is a bike advocate without being a bike fanatic!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.
    shipping bar app
    Shopify free shipping bar app

    ReplyDelete
  3. One thing I want to talk to you is thank you. Your posts help me open my mind. I find them very interesting. They ease me in the hard time. Thanks for sharing your articles.
    currency converter master
    currency converter portable

    ReplyDelete
  4. It’s really extraordinary and informational blog such a good thinking. It's in reality a great and useful piece of information. I'm glad you have this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.
    facebook messenger online
    facebook chat box

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would like to see more important articles like this being posted. People will definitely appreciate that.
    Discount master app 2018, Product discount app, autoketing

    ReplyDelete
  6. It’s really extraordinary and informational blog such a good thinking. It's in reality a great and useful piece of information. I'm glad you have this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.
    autoketing
    sales pop master
    sales pop master online

    ReplyDelete
  7. You know what? I really like your posts. I wander on the internet to find something new or unique. And I see your articles. I decided to linger at your site and read more and more. I hope that you can upload new posts. I will be the first one to read them. Thanks a million
    y8y8y8 2 player games
    kizi games for boys
    gogy for games

    ReplyDelete
  8. One thing I want to talk to you is thank you. Your posts help me open my mind. I find them very interesting. They ease me in the hard time. Thanks for sharing your articles.
    scribble party games
    shell shockers games
    duck life space games

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.
    zombs royale games online
    happy wheels games online
    five nights at freddys games online

    ReplyDelete
  10. I will be happy if you read my comment. I must say that I like all your posts and wait for new ones. That's because they seem so great and suitable for me. Thanks a ton for uploading your articles.
    Moto X3M 4 Winter racing games || Hilly.io games online free || games Xmas Magic Tiles to play

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is very interesting content! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your points and have come to the conclusion that you are right about many of them. You are great. free brutalmaniaio
    disney bridesmaids hair salon games to play
    goalkeeper champ unblocked games

    ReplyDelete
  12. One thing I want to talk to you is thank you. Your posts help me open my mind. I find them very interesting. They ease me in the hard time. Thanks for sharing your articles.
    boxkid free unblocked games
    xmas jump online games to play
    princess college graduation ball online

    ReplyDelete
  13. Your posts are my cup of tea. I'm interested in your articles. I always read them everyday and wait for incoming ones. It's because your posts are interesting.
    Santa Snake games hot unblcoked || Adam And Eve 5 Part 1 games puzle || Click here to play Icy Purple Head

    ReplyDelete
  14. One thing I want to talk to you is thank you. Your posts help me open my mind. I find them very interesting. They ease me in the hard time. Thanks for sharing your articles.
    frozen sister rose style fashion games
    astroraceio free
    time to park online

    ReplyDelete
  15. Your writings are so good. They contains a bunch of information. I think that you know much about those topics. I want to send a thank to you. Your posts can help me more and more in the future. Once again thank you.
    free games Short Ride || Kindergarten Dress Up 2 player games || Moto X3M 2 action games unboloced

    ReplyDelete
  16. Your writings are so good. They contains a bunch of information. I think that you know much about those topics. I want to send a thank to you. Your posts can help me more and more in the future. Once again thank you.
    free games
    jogos 4 school

    ReplyDelete
  17. One thing I want to talk to you is thank you. Your posts help me open my mind. I find them very interesting. They ease me in the hard time. Thanks for sharing your articles.
    free games online 2019
    friv jogos

    ReplyDelete
  18. I hope this post of yours will be more appreciated by it really excellent, i enjoyed it, thanks for posting it. I do not feel sorry for taking the time to read this post, it is really nice and useful to me, thanks for posting it.
    Games of pbs, friv jogos 2019, kizi car games

    ReplyDelete

  19. food games online
    basketball games 2019
    soccer games play
    I hope this post of yours will be more appreciated by it really excellent, i enjoyed it, thanks for posting it. I do not feel sorry for taking the time to read this post, it is really nice and useful to me, thanks for posting it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. 2player game online
    io jogos gratis
    free online juegos games
    Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and i am looking forward to reading new articles. as this You're the best to share us about this redesign. Trust you won't get tired on making posts as useful

    ReplyDelete
  21. I don’t know what has happened to the custom of delivering consistent good articles. I hope that the custom comes alive after this..thumbs up for your work
    Jogo online
    play free a10 game,
    miniclip jogos free,

    ReplyDelete
  22. This pass practice is commonly costly as professional web developers can warfare you each and every share of one from a hundred bucks to thousands of dollars, depending not in the isolate away away off from how perplexing you nonappearance your website to be
    gy y games
    Games of friv
    y8 soccer

    ReplyDelete
  23. Yet while normal and understandable, this is also something that's addressable. (Not entirely fixable, of course, but at least addressable.) But facts aren't the way to do it -- simply getting better at announcing the who, what, where, and when of things won't really convey the flavor of this lively place. For that you need stories.
    games online for kids
    jogos 4 school online
    jogos 360 game

    ReplyDelete