Bike lanes and common sense


Cycling advocates can give you a list of reasons they enjoy and support biking:  it’s healthy, it’s clean, and it’s fun. Not to mention it gets cars off the crowded roads and provides another means of transport for people without access to four wheels. Sadly, none of these lines of reasoning can sway Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray.

Earlier this month, Souchery ranted against the terror of the bike lane. Soucheray presents a delicately nuanced dissection of the issue, invoking ideas of motherhood (“stay-at-home moms are treasures of the human spirit”), Christmas, the liberal tyranny of neighborhood councils, and the coup de grâce – twice drawing comparisons between bicycling and Europe (that brie-stinking cesspool of socialism and two-wheeled transit). It’s the classic conservative kitchen sink argument. In Soucheray’s nightmare vision, the streets of St Paul will soon be bathed in the glow of reflector light while God-fearing housewives will be forced to look both ways before pulling out of the driveway.

This is not to say Soucheray has anything against bicycling. It seems fine when done for fun. It doesn’t begin to take on a sinister nature until the rider has a destination in mind. In the same stroke that Soucheray rages against altering the status quo (adding transit options apparently takes us back to 1890), he decries a bike lane advocate’s lack of imagination.

The real problem here is not Joe Soucheray’s hysterical ranting. The problem is that it all falls under the umbrella of “common sense,” a phrase the right has claimed a monopoly over. In the domain of common sense, anything goes and further argument is never warranted. The Joe Soucherays (and Sean Hannitys and Michele Bachmanns) have built their careers fetishizing this condescending view of the unthinking everyman with their gut-knows-best brand of Garage Logic. They like to believe they’re representatives of average people. In their worldview, we common folk don’t like thinking about issues; we make our decisions not on rational reasoning, but on suspicious intuition and emotional appeals.

It’s about time to reclaim the crown of common sense. A bike lane constructed on a residential street serves both leisurely bike riders as well as commuters and facilitates active movement. THAT is common sense.

It is time for progressives to reframe the arguments, be it bike lanes or budget cuts, and take back the banner of common sense.