Classism and Bicycling in Canada

Class systems aren’t just for England. They are alive and well in Canadian society too. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club has made class their first reason why people in the UK don’t cycle. But I submit that the UK cannot bogart that excuse for themselves. No, class is something that prevents people in Canada from taking la bicyclette to and fro as well.

In Canada, we hate to tell our peers how much we make, but we love to show how much stuff we have. Bicycles don’t get that message out effectively. They are small, hide in the garage, and really top-shelf bikes are not obvious to the untrained eye.

Also, travelling by bicycle has some social stigma attached. Not because it’s slow, or crowded like the bus. But because it requires physical exercise. For the wealthy, exercise should only occur within the confines of a specifically designed state-of-the-art facility. Preferably one with high fees to reduce access for the masses.

If you’re stuck on biking like I am, here are a few ways that cyclists try to escape the skid row of the commuting world.

  1. They cycle chic, dressing in great designer clothes for their commute. It’s the brute force method of convincing the outside world that you don’t have to bike. You could bike back home and get the SUV anytime. If you “dress up” before you ride your bike, then you fall into this category.
  2. They cycle sporty, clad in all lycra, expensive sunglasses and bikes that cost a significant portion of a months wage. This is a more clever solution to the class problem of cycling because you’re convincing people that your cycling has no practical usage and is therefore worthy of higher caliber person.
  3. They cycle with a backpack full of books and pull off a university student look. You have to grow hipster facial hair and wear those full face sunglasses. Students aren’t subject to the same rules of transportation class because they don’t make money. This one is limited term though, eventually, we all stop looking 21.

Great, some things that help improve your stature on the roadway. Here are some common mistakes that will drop your social status like a lead balloon.

  1. Do not carry a case of beer in the pannier rack rat trap. Apparently, this social status faux-pas does not extend to carrying wine on a bicycle in the water bottle holder.
  2. Upturned drop bars are not classy. It shows that you really wanted an comfortable and expensive commuter, maybe even imported from Europe, but couldn’t afford it.
  3. Travelling at high speed makes it look like you have some place to go. That’s bad and you should avoid moving fast unless you are clad in the finest Lycra.

Avoid the pitfalls of commuter classism by reading up on these rules of class membership. But FFS, do not make a mistake like wearing your everyday clothes! It might be convenient and comfortable, but you could be mistaken for a prole.

7 thoughts on “Classism and Bicycling in Canada

  1. Good article Rob, you make some very good points, but I wouldn’t wear everyday clothes while biking anywhere…jeans and T-shirt would really show off my a**-crack.

  2. “but we love to show how much stuff we have.”

    First thing I think of is how high the average Canadian’s debt load is. I believe it’s somewhere between $50,000 – 90,000.

    Sure people may have the “nice” car, home, boat or the latest iPhone etc. but how many actually OWN these items?
    Most are put on credit/mortgage and either not paid off for years, or simply when things get too out of hand the people have to file for personal bankruptcy.

    I’m more then happy to have less but own them outright, then have more and be stuck paying them off for years or decades to come.

    Although I’m sure it exists, I don’t find that people view cyclists are poor here or of a lower class. Sure you have people who ride around when it’s blue box week collecting beer cans & bottles on bikes, but as a whole I don’t find this as much of an issue here in StC.

    1. But do you think people feel they’re too good to ride a bike. My conjecture is that most people are capable of riding to work or errands but don’t.

      One reason might be that they feel biking is beneath them.

      1. It’s hard to tell to be honest. I don’t get the impression here that people are too good to ride a bike. Not to say that doesn’t exist of course.

        I suppose you could make the argument that some are above driving a pick-up truck as it may make them look too country or some are against driving smart cars as it may present themselves in a less masculine way.

        When it comes to bikes, I believe a lot of it boils down to laziness. People find it far too much effort to pedal somewhere versus hoping in a car.
        Of course if I look at some cities (Toronto), yes I do believe this attitude is alive and well that some are above cycling.

  3. Rob, this is sentiment that’s still peculating … I feel cycling is beneath me and I’m a cyclist.

    Two examples:
    1 – Students – I ride by the university everyday on my way to to work and one day it dawned on me that I didn’t consider the thousands of students who bike to class every day as bike commuters … some how I had to conjure up a reason that I was better than them. Somehow I was thinking that they had to ride to to class where as I choose to ride to work .. and somehow in my warped thinking that made me better. I believe it was your post of waving / nodding to fellow cyclists that uncovered my superiority complex or my bigoted class system.

    2 – Homelessness. A couple years ago I moved into uptown waterloo and one of the things I’ve noticed is that there is an increase in recyclers (many of whom ride bikes). Those nice folks who find gold in what others throw away. This particular day I noticed a man riding a bike with a trailer checking out the recycling bins. As he meandered down the street I noticed he saw my neighbours pile of construction debris on the side of their house. It’s a corner lot and so he stopped his bike and walked across our yard to our neigbours house to check it out. My first instinct was to scare him away, but then I realized that we both had something in common; we rode bikes. My second thought was about that superiority thing where if it’s a choice we’re somehow better than those who do it out of necessity … it’s a horrible thought, but I’ve found it in me!

    When wealthy do something out of choice, somehow it makes them better than those who do it out of necessity. Perhaps this is the scourge of wealth (something that we don’t need), it tricks us into thinking stuff is more valuable than humanity, than the miracle of life.

    1. Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

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