Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan and bikes II

The Urban Country (see previous post) came up against the sentiment, at least on FB, that it was poor form to be perceived as using tragedy to advance the biking cause.

Today Copenhagenize also has a post about bikes and their current role in devastated Japan, with a comments thread debating whether such a post is in bad taste or not.

What do you think?


  1. I think this 'issue' is a bad form of political correctness.

  2. It definitely feels exploitative. There isn't anything politically correct about it. Long before the "pc" term was invented anyone who wasn't too mired in advocacy would be able to identify exploitative politicization of a tragedy. Pointing out bad taste is not reflective of a post modern oversensitivity, it is reflective of pointing out bad taste.

  3. I guess historians should then just cease to exist.

    Please explain how this has anything to do with exploitative politicization.

  4. the south west of the Netherlands suffered major flooding in 1953, many dead, etc. Photographers were sent in to capture this. Just like the Japanese, many Dutch then (and now) moved by bike & this mode of transport was often the only thing still usefull. So, exploitative politicization or just news gathering, recording facts on the ground?

    PS: I run a bike blog & have a post in draft to finish up how there are similarities in our bike cultures relating to natural disasters. When that time comes, you're free to point out it's in bad taste. I just won't take it for fact, just because you said so.


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  6. Ever heard the term "too soon," Amsterdamize? Down the road a bit, yes, sure, it is fine. But they've barely even begun burying the dead. Take your pictures now and use them to push a political agenda later; but at least allow the grieving processes to begin before exploiting the tragedy to further said political agenda. Hardcore advocates of any 'cause' always fail to see that necessity.

    Besides, using a bike to get around in these environments isn't really that big of a deal. Are the soldiers using them? Are emergency workers using them? For every bike you see 1000 pedestrians. Are pedestrian advocates publishing photos of walkers to celebrate the resiliency of bipedalism over automobiles?

  7. When I first woke up to the news of this disaster while I was in NYC, it was on my mind for every minute of the day (Friday), and it has occupied my mind almost non-stop since then.

    I almost feel that posting a blog article about anything that *doesn't* relate to the Japan disaster to be insensitive. This is on everyone's mind. Many of us have sent over money to help them cope with the disaster, and some of us have friends and/or family over there.

    So how is it insensitive to share our feelings about the disaster and point out that bicycles have actually helped the victims deal with this terrible disaster? (on a bike blog no less).

    I have a very close friend whose family members lived through the disaster, and I have readers who live in Tokyo and have provided some updates on how they and their families have been coping through my blog.

    *None* of these people have said that what I wrote was insensitive to the disaster. One regular reader even commented that he wished he had ridden his bike to work the day of the earthquake because it would have helped him reach his wife, child and in-laws more efficiently.

    I don't sell bikes and I don't sell ads on my website.

    Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me that I am being insensitive and exploitative?

  8. Where is it exploitationist to point out that something as basic as a bicycle is something that could help in a disaster? We don't think it is so of we show people using tents gas temporary shelters, or if someone gives out thousands of parkas to people without coats, or if you see someone in a Land Rover driving over destroyed roads.

    What if we could give every person who needed one in the disaster zone a bicycle? They would not need to line up for gasoline. They would be able to get somewhere under their own power, including out of the hot zone. They would have the ability to control something basic in their lives- the ability to control where they are and how they get there.

    Radical. Exploitative. Shocking.

  9. If people are sensitive to how bicycle can help, that's great! There are plenty of stories of all the horrible things happening.

    The problem is when cycle-advocates place their holy cycling above anything else, such as various decisions against other things in a city which likes to be known for promoting cycling.

  10. Thanks for the comment, but I don't fully understand. First I don't understand why you use the snide expression about 'holy cycling', what are cycle advocates putting cycles above? Cars? Hardly. Even something approaching coexistence is only a dream for cyclists in most cities. Above pedestrians? I don't see where that's happening either.

    Sorry but 'various decisions against other things in a city which likes to be known for promoting cycling' doesn't really make sense, mind explaining? 'Against' what? You make it sound like progress in accommodating cyclists comes at the expense of - against - something else. That's certainly a negative point of view. If you mean that roads are re-made to allow for both car and bike traffic then yes, you got that right!