Justice and Good Vibes
When I was a kid, I had a teacher who was a cycling maniac. He used to take us mountain biking during gym class to cover his drills and “time lost inside the classroom.” It was the same as us having to sweat to get to his favorite site, and there, we had to silently observe for 30 minutes how he mastered his stunts and moves.
It was pure hell, and finally, a few of my classmates complained to their parents who complained to the headmaster, after which my class’s normal state was restored. Once again, our gym lessons were all about playing baseball, badminton, and soccer, which were introduced to us by our old teacher, who had retired.
Because of these school experiences, I never became a bike enthusiast, although my father was a fan of road bicycle racing, and it was also my hobby for a short while as a teenager. Later, the deeper meaning of biking was purely theoretical since, during my history studies at the university, I was forced to observe bikes as a socio-political issue.
I learned pretty quickly that biking for the city boys had always been about checking out the ladies while sweeping through streets and parks. Today, songs like Queen’s “Bicycle Race” and Mark Ronson’s “The Bike Song” are symbols of rubbernecking connected to the modern open-door pleasure-seeking.
During the early and middle 20th century, bikes became highly popular among sexual predators and other crooks living in or visiting rural areas of any nation. Bikes gave them the means to move quickly from place A to place B, especially on small dirt roads, which were inaccessible to police vehicles. Further, if a person preyed on people walking in the woods or along narrow dirt roads, a bike allowed them to surprise their victims since, unlike cars, they didn’t make much noise. Then, predators were able to swiftly escape after their dirty work. Bikes were also easy to hide.
Those who were not on wheels were deprived of fundamental human rights, which clashed with the vehicle’s original intention—to make traveling possible for individuals unable to afford horses, and who were too poor to take frequent carriage rides. Also, women living in big cities gained more freedom, since bicycles allowed them to move around elegantly, even though they had to wear heavy dresses, bustles, and corsets.
From a historian’s point of view, the bicycle’s development was a celebration of freedom and fundamental human rights. The same way that the development of internet technology marked individual freedom and prompt, borderless exchange of ideas.
In the 20th and the 21st century, unfortunately, the bicycle, the internet, and all the innovations in communications technology have been tools for many to trample others’ rights, rather than to celebrate justice and good vibes.