I've been accused of "age and gender discrimination" by a self-described "grey-haired guy", John Schubert.
At least I think its me. It certainly seems as if he's referencing a blog post I wrote a few years ago: "Avid cyclists as policy makers are going extinct and they've no one else to blame". I've accused John Schubert and company, of being "avid cyclists" who achieved positions of some influence over cycling infrastructure and were able to impede its progress for decades. Below you can see some of these surviving "avid" cyclists (source), on a trip to critique New York City's cycling infrastructure. The three on left are members of the obscure but semi-powerful National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices Bicycle Technical Committee (John Schubert, John Allen and John Ciccarelli, members of NCUTCDBTC, and New York bicycling advocate and planner Steve Faust).
I compared their approach to cycling with that of more recent leaders in cycling infrastructure, including Janette Sadik Khan (former head of NYDOT), Mia Birk (former Portland Bicycle Program Manager and Alta Planning principal) and Dr. Monica Campbell of Toronto Public Health. All my examples happened to be women (this will become important below).
I called the former cycling leaders "avid cyclists" to capture an attitude to cycling which is usually revealed by the specialized cycling clothing, specialized gear, and a focus on training to cycle in any kind of urban traffic. It certainly has its appeal to some people (as it does to me who has been known to have fiddled and repaired many a bike, taught CAN-BIKE to many, and obsessed over bike gear). But it does not appeal to the masses. And the evidence shows how cycling barely survived for decades in car-obsessed North America.
The new leaders do not focus on special clothing, nor gear, nor riding skills akin to training to "run among a herd of elephants". Rather they have focused on making cycling appealing to the masses by making the urban environment more comfortable and safer. As I mentioned in the previous post, "increasingly these policy makers are not the gear heads, "avid" cyclists and the road warriors - the survivors when everyone else stopped cycling. I'll happily put myself in the category of a reforming avid cyclist. Instead the leaders are increasingly women and men who are intensely interested in making cycling (and walking) safer for their families."
But here's what Schubert says in the quote taken up by NYC Bike Snob:
Here’s a story about age and gender discrimination: Some years ago, I participated in a review of some bicycle facilities in New York. We found that one facility, if you obeyed the traffic signals, would only allow an average speed of six mph (and that’s in uncontested traffic conditions). That’s unlikely to generate much compliance with the signals. We found other stuff, good and bad. We reported on it. So a few years after that, I found that some know-it-all had decided we were all irrelevant because we were old white guys. And published a picture of us, comparing it with a picture of Mia Birk of Alta Planning. And said how much greater Mia is, because she’s an attractive younger female, and we weren’t. Birk is known for defending bicycle facilities that cause bicyclists to get crushed underneath turning trucks whose drivers never saw them. (Hint: Google “truck bicycle blind spot” for some important information.) Most of the people saying, “No, don’t build this crap” are old white guys. But our viewpoints should be ignored, because we’re old and white.
For the record no where have I said "Mia is better because she's an attractive younger female". Note that he ignores Sadik Khan who is not young, and also Dr. Campbell (because he has no idea of her age). I have even less respect for Schubert now.
I couldn't care less about the age or gender of these people. Though it is telling of the background and environment in which they grew up. It wouldn't matter who these guys are except that as part of the semi-powerful NCUTCDBTC committee they've helped hinder truly transformative bike facilities in the US. It was only when some leaders who happened to be mostly women (with a range of ages) did an end run around this committee and created their own guide for cities that they helped break the strangle hold.
I am a white-bearded man in his forties. My mother rode her bike everywhere growing up in The Netherlands. I am quite happy that the old ideas are losing their grip and new ones are gaining power. And it doesn't matter if the people who embody those ideas are young, old, of any gender, class, race, culture.
My toddler also thanks the new leaders in safer cycling. Now we must ride off to the playground. (For gearheads: the bike is a Workcycle).