How exciting and impressive to witness a mostly peaceful revolution in our time! There were some rocks, batons and fire bombs, but instead of guns, the real weapons of
revolution chosen by the people of Egypt were the electronic media, modern social networking, and most importantly, an inspiring display of peaceful civil disobedience and unity. I am awed at how the people of Egypt manage to maintain collective self-control and at the same time display such passionate nationalism and pride. I am also very impressed at the restraint of the Egyptian military. And to think they did all this without an obvious revolutionary leader.
The United States of America has a heritage of revolution as well, but our ancestors had to spill their blood to gain freedom of religion and independence from the British Monarchy. While there are heady times to come in Egypt I’m sure, we can only hope the Egyptian revolution turns out as well as the Velvet Revolution did in Czechoslovakia. I’m no historian, but the only other comparisons I can think of are the battle for suffrage and the civil rights movement in the United States.
I don’t mean to cheapen or trivialize what the people of Egypt, Tunisia, the suffragettes or civil rights workers accomplished, but I think as advocates for a healthier world through a more balanced transportation system, we can learn from what we have witnessed. We can learn to stick to our positive message when faced with charged rhetoric. We can be prideful without anger. We can, no, we must organize and speak with unity if we want our voices to be heard. This is a bit long, but what she said in 1896 holds so much truth for we cyclists today that I think it is worth giving Susan B. Anthoney a full read:“I think it (the bicycle) has done a great deal to emancipate women. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives her a feeling of freedom, self-reliance and independence. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm while she is on her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood…The bicycle also teaches practical dress reform, gives women fresh air and exercise, and helps make them equal with men in work and pleasure; and anything that does that has my good word. What is better yet, the bicycle preaches the necessity for woman suffrage. When bicyclists want a bit of special legislation, such as side-paths and laws to protect them, or to compel railroads to check bicycles as baggage, the women are likely to be made to see that their petitions would be more respected by the law-makers if they had votes, and the men that they are losing a source of strength because so many riders of the machine are women. From such small practical lessons a seed is sown that may ripen into the demand for full suffrage, by which alone women can ever make and control their own conditions in society and state.”
The seeds of a velorution are already beginning to germinate, from the Waukesha Bicycle Alliance to the Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition, local advocacy groups are sprouting up across Wisconsin. These groups are already making real change in their communities.
While I can’t see anything popping up in Milwaukee yet, I am interested in helping something grow here. Interestingly, if you do a Google image search for “velorution” you get about as many images of Dutch-style city bikes and cyclechic photos as you do of graffiti
and critical mass rides. Try it and perhaps you will agree with me that in the same way the bicycle was a symbol of independence for women suffragettes, the simple act of riding a bicycle in a skirt and heels or a suit and tie may have become a revolutionary statement.
There are a lot of different directions we could take and we can certainly learn from the experiences of others. To help frame a discussion about some sort of organized group of Milwaukee bicycle advocates, or more broadly, balanced transportation advocates, I will look at the Waukesha Bicycle Alliance, the Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. In my next post I interview with two of the founding members of the Waukesha Bicycle Alliance: Ron Stawicki and Sonia Dubielzig. I will follow that with interviews with the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and the Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition.
As they say in Chicago Critical Mass, “Happy Friday.”