Sunday, May 27, 2012

Concern Trolling the Bike Fed

Kevin Hardman is the Excecutive Director of the Bike Federation of Wisconsin.  I am not personally acquainted with Kevin but I appreciate his championing of all things cycling in my state, and his relentlessly sunny attitude in the face of the nasty headwinds Scott Walker has created here for those who ride bikes (and teach, like clean water, dislike corruption, want leaders who can't be bought and paid for....I could go on like this for a while). So yeah. When Kevin writes, I read.

He posted this yesterday:
Earlier this week I sent out an e-mail blast to our database notifying everyone of the news of [Wisconsin's] drop in the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly State Ranking. I received the following e-mail response from a member of our community:
Kevin, I appreciate your passion for bicycling and support through the Federation. However, the State of Wisconsin has only recently recovered from a near catastrophic financial disaster. It may be better to develope a database of private donors and seek to self fund as time goes on. There will be fewer funds available from the state. I too am enthusiastic about bicycling in Wisconsin and would contribute but I do not expect my neighbor to be as enthusiastic and I feel I have no claim on my neighbor’s money in support of my interest(s). Add my name to the database.
The message to Kevin was signed "Enthusiastic Wisconsin Biker." I'll call him EWB.

EWB is not enthusiastic.  I wonder if EWB is a biker.  Because any self-identified "enthusiastic" cyclist in Wisconsin understands that cycling infrastructure (along with roads, sidewalks, buses, and airports) is part of a comprehensive transit strategy and part of a greater economic equation.  EWB does not, apparently, get this.  Or he has an axe to grind on behalf of a certain governor on the brink of being recalled.  Whatever.

Kevin's response to EWB was, as expected, honest, evenhanded, and factual.  Charitable, too. Please read it.

EWB's starting position is that bicycles are an insignificant little special interest that is supposed to either pay for itself or not exist. I feel a lot less charitable than Kevin about that.
Kevin, I congratulate you for taking the high road with EWB. Perhaps his post was sincere. I got a pretty good whiff of Concern Trolling myself, but maybe that’s a byproduct of the political toxins that are part of life in Wisconsin these days. No matter. You are dead-on that cycling is more than a hobby or a diversion. Anyone who’s ever run an errand, commuted to work, or participated in one of our many cycling events has a sense of its economic value, measurable in dollars, fitness, and cleaner air. It’s nice that EWB feels no claim on his neighbor’s money for his “interest” in cycling. Suppose his neighbor doesn’t drive a car. Is said neighbor also then exempt from paying for the 40-50 percent of our highway projects that get funding from sources other than the gas tax and user fees?