Paul Andrews

The Problem with a Virtual Protest

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on January 24, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Is that it undermines a real-life protest. After weeks of buildup, the big protest at Facebook headquarters against an anti-cycling hate page drew two people — the organizer, Carson Blume, and BikeIntelligencer.

From a selfish standpoint it was a great success. I got to meet and chat with Carson, who has an amazing history aboard two wheels, including a head-on crash that flipped him into the air for 3 somersaults and a shattered kneecap, among other injuries. He’s also had a gun pulled on him while riding … twice! All by way of explaining why he is so passionate about equal access for bikes on the road, and why hate pages seem so irresponsible to him.

Carson got 125 RSVPs and “maybes” to the Facebook rally. Normally you expect some dropoff, but this was pretty stark. We speculated that a break in the miserable weather may have hurt the cause. Given the chance to get out and ride after a week of slop, cyclists chose to exercise their quads rather than their right to assembly.

I also think the Twitter generation may believe that email and online petitions and a coupla tweets get the job done just as well as in person. They may be right. It does seem a tall challenge in this day and age to get people to commit and show up.

Maybe the solution is to do the Lance thing and combine the two. His latest Twitter ride (in Australia) drew 5,000 cyclists! If it’s impromptu and uses cool tech, it may have a far greater chance of succeeding than the old school sign up and show up approach. Saul Alinsky would understand.

Thanks in any case to Carson for organizing the page and drawing attention to the misbegotten hate every cyclist has faced on the road.

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