This article was originally written some time ago, but shelved because it seemed outside the norm of our standard article fair. However, with recent events, it seems like maybe an "outside our normal" article was needed. Dusted off and ready to go, here it is. Due to nature of the article, we will be turning off the comments for this one.
If you read the title of this article and began hate typing a comment about “social justice warriors” or “white privilege” or the “patriarchy”. Just stop for a moment. There is a real issue here, with real questions and maybe real answers.
Can we, as mountain bikers, name trails in a way we find funny, cute or ironic, and in doing so create hurt feelings or harm to others? How do we know if a concern is legitimate? What can we do if we find a trail name offensive?
This story has been in outline form for some time. However, it lacked a seemingly complicated (and easy enough) example to access and research. Then a little plane accident happened and it appeared a complicated and fraught enough example had (literally) fallen from the sky. It was quickly added to the article. Outwardly, it seemed like the perfect example: easy to discuss, emotional, but not related to current controversies.
Fate is a weird thing. On the day before this article was to be published, here in the United States an horrible and cruel example of Antisemitism tragically cost 11 innocent and beautiful souls their lives. The story was to auto-publish that next evening. Clearly it was held up. The question became whether it would ever be published and if so, in what form.
However, in the end, it was decided it should go forward. This article is about complicated subjects. Whether we are talking about urban mountain biking, iconography or the stupidity of bigotry, we should be able to talk about complicated things and do so without others reducing those subjects to a cartoon. So this article is presented in its full, original, form.
The best thing we can all do is promote love and acceptance. The second best thing we can do is talk about hard topics, like Antisemitism, with the better angels of our nature. In the spirit of the best of what humanity can be, please take the time to donate to organizations like HIAS because, seriously, those assholes can't be allowed to win.
A lot of the parts of creating urban mountain biking experiences are hard. Whether it is discussing environmental impacts, trail management, volunteering or funding of trails, a lot of little things can add up. Additionally, some things are subjective to the time, location or usage. In other words, it can get complicated.
So how do we, as advocates, talk about complicated things without confusing or upsetting our audiences? How can we get the context right in the simplest manner possible?
Let’s find that out. But first, let’s talk about an airplane crash in California to see how the lesson there can teach us why understanding complicated things is important to what we are trying to do. Let’s also use that understanding to figure out how to talk about the complicated things of mountain biking to an audience.
On April 6th, 2018 Bicycling Magazine took a break from telling its readers they needed the latest $10,000 super bike to post an article by Ayesha McGowan. The article is about diversity, or more correctly, the lack of diversity within the cycling community.
Before going any further take a few moments to read Ms. McGowan’s article.
Ms. McGowan’s article is so powerful not only because she points to a real problem in the bicycling world, but includes relatively simple fixes to these problems. While the article is aimed at the corporate/industrial side of bicycling, the fact of the matter is that bicycling is more than Specialized’s graphics department. It’s all of us that use bicycles and love bicycles, whether we ride to work or on the trail.
What are other ways that the industry and us, as cyclists, can help ensure cycling appeals to everyone?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.