Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford passed away yesterday. The bombastic Ford became public enemy number one in the Canadian cycling community after telling the Toronto city council that cyclists had no business on the roads and that we deserved to be run over by motorists. Here…have a look.
Depending on whom you believe, Ford was not a nice guy. He had issues that extended well beyond his dislike for those of us on two wheels and his passing made me think. What is it about us that makes some people despise us so? Is it a character defect or flaw? Is it really that we’re in the way and moving slower than them? If so, why do so many stop to argue with us when we defend our turf?
In the case of politicians, I’ve come to learn that it’s almost always about something bigger than that. It’s about who they’re beholden to, and so I found myself thinking about who loses when we cycle. I wondered who Rob Ford might have answered to. I didn’t do any research or attempt to verify this. I”m just shooting from the hip, but here’s what I came up with.
This one’s obvious. The more we cycle, the less oil we consume. The less oil we consume, the less profit flows to Big Oil. Big Oil exists to make big profit. It has a vested interest in discouraging cycling. In my world, Big Oil extends to automobile manufacturing. Building cars is more profitable than building bicycles. We might as well throw highway construction in as well. Big roads are more profitable to construction companies and consultants than side paths. These folks all lose when we choose to cycle instead of motor. Who wins? That’s easy peasy. You win…you and the community you call home.
This one was also pretty obvious. We’ve let our health go to hell in this country and it’s mostly due to our unwillingness to get out of the Barcalounger and move around under our own power. Our healthcare system largely consists of pills and pills are very, very profitable. I’m 56 years old. I take zero pills. In fact, I haven’t taken a pill in years. That has freed up a lot of capital. My less fortunate friends remind me of this often. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I think all those miles in the saddle have a lot to do with it, too.
In “Born to Run,” Chris McDougall tells the story of how Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians derived most of the nutrition they needed to run thousands of miles per year on a diet that consisted primarily of Pinole, a native corn and chia dish. They were as healthy as the day was long, but then the supply chain improved and was able to deliver Ramen noodles to the Mexican outback. The Tarahumara are not as healthy as they once were. Most of the food people in “civilized” societies eat is garbage. It will keep you alive as long as your lifestyle remains sedentary and you can afford a lot of pills. It is extremely profitable to produce and sell, though, so that’s what we get. When you cycle, you discover that your body craves living, nutrient rich food. You leave that other profitable, garbage food behind. It changes your life. You feel better.The energy, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries are powerful and profitable. When we cycle, we don’t need as much of what they’re selling, so by defying conventional wisdom, getting up out of our seats and moving, we’re a threat to the status quo. Cool.
Rest in peace, Rob Ford. I hope you channel your inner cyclist in the next life.