I don’t know about you, but one of the things that appeals to me about cycling is the beauty I find in its utter simplicity. Unfortunately, as cycling gains in popularity, it seems there are more and more people with ideas about what we cyclists should and should not be doing.
In the last year, I’ve seen bills introduced in statehouses requiring us to wear at least 200 square inches of bright, reflective clothing (only pink, orange or green, but no yellow) in Wyoming and attach a ginormous “dork” flag to the back of our bikes in Missouri. Are these onerous burdens to bear? I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to have to carry a tape measure to prove to the nice law enforcement officer that I really am sporting 202 square inches of hot pink or lime green reflective tape instead of just 197. And why no yellow? It’s okay for fire trucks but not cyclists? What gives, Wyoming?
It’s not just lawmakers, either. The bike industry is getting into the act by adding all sorts of integrated electronics and gadgets and gizmos onto new models. Some of this stuff (integrated locks, for example) is intriguing on the surface, but I’m afraid that the collective effect will make bicycles so complex and difficult to maintain that the very act of cycling will morph from a joy to just another constricted life choice that “used to be” fun back in the day. Even if that’s not the case, all of this stuff is very expensive and adds a level of challenge that (I think, at least) robs us of a little of what cycling is all about.
I recently made what I thought was an innocent comment on an online thread. I was responding to someone who thought it was a good idea to require turn signals on bicycles. “What’s wrong with hand signals?” I asked. Big mistake… It was explained to me that I was being ridiculous because nobody uses them and if anybody ever did have the compunction to use them, well, they’d have to take their hand off the handlebars to do so. OK, fine, I thought, but almost nobody uses turn signals either and those who do have to take their hand off the steering wheel to use them, so how is that going to change things for the better?
The point is that there are a lot of folks who seem to be trying awfully hard to make bicycling as difficult and burdensome as driving a car. This has to be resisted by all of us who love this wonderful mode of transportation. The bicycle and bicycling are the very essence of simplicity. This is good. Let’s keep it that way.