Does Biking To Work Take All The Joy Out of Biking?

Navneet Alang thinks it does. In Ban The Bike Commute, Alang writes a call-to-arms, or a call to aimless wandering, that well, borders on parody but I admire his passion:

I will not clip my cleats to go and clock in. I will not pedal for a paycheck. I will not sully my ride in pursuit of a salary. What I will do instead is march upon the powers-that-be and demand one thing and one thing alone: ban the cycle commute.

To ride a bike to work is to subsume pleasure into the machinations of productivity, to make leisure yet another economic activity. By its nature, the bicycle is anti-productive: it exposes one to the air, shocking you out of your air-conditioned stupor. It lends itself to wandering; after all, find a gentle incline on a sunny day, and the bike practically takes you where it wants. It is a tool for both aimless daydreaming and collective social resistance. Find friends and ride four bicycles wide, blocking the traffic behind you. Where should you go? Why, nowhere, of course; anywhere. When it comes to the bicycle, destinations are akin to domestication.

I haven’t had a full-time job or a body without a fetus in it for quite some time, but when I did, biking to work was one of the best things I did. It made the “commute” not actually feel like a commute. It felt like a reclamation of the commute, a stealing back of those 20–30 minutes. Instead of transitioning from work to home cursing people in my head on the subway, I was forced to let go of all of my work rage by the time I got home. I’d have arguments in my head on the way over the bridge, but by the time I was back into Brooklyn, I spent so much brainpower concentrating on not-dying, I had let go of it. Maybe the sun was setting, maybe there was a breeze. I was sweating a little and smiling and full of endorphins by the time I got in the door. My life was my own again. Commuting to work was similar. Showing up to the office with a bike on my shoulder was like showing up with a sign that said: I HAVE OTHER THINGS IN MY LIFE. Even if other things pretty much just boil down to “this bike.” I loved sitting down to my desk red-faced and hair strewn, telling stories of all the ways I almost-died on the way in.

But yes, when I look at my long-dormant bike sitting in our apartment, is is not the commuting I miss. Every day that’s a nice day lately I think, “Today would be a nice day for a bike ride.” To nowhere in particular. To sit in the park for a bit and then turn around and go back. To wind through side streets shouting at nothing.

Though I think Navneet is right, after you commute to work on your bike, the bike does start to feel like ‘the thing you ride to work on.’ And then weekend bike rides are the reclamation of the reclamation of the commute. But whatever, it’s not that difficult of a thing to reclaim.

God love him, though, for this:

Maybe I don’t want to #banthecyclecommute as much as ban the capitalist subsumption of every last thing.

— Navneet Alang (@navalang) May 14, 2014

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