The Bicyclists guide to freedom – and its limits

Climbers killed here by Taliban
Climbers killed here by Taliban

Being a cyclist, its interesting to note how places to cycle around the globe get harder to find.
I once read a book about an Irish woman cyclist who cycled many years ago to Afghanistan, and was treated well there.
Nowadays, you read stories such as the one about the mountain climbers who visited a beautiful region of Pakistan and get killed by Jihadists, so chances are you would reroute your planned bike trip around many Muslim countries.

But even in the US, bicycling can be a problem. Take the city of Philadelphia.  If you lock your bicycle at the University of Pennsylvania while students are on vacation, you may find your bike missing all parts that are not locked down.

Philadelphia is not the safest city any more, and one time my brother was riding his bike to work from his house in West Philadelphia and someone threw a stick into the wheel. He says

I had read a lot about attacks on students in West Philadelphia and so was very angry about it since I assumed the gang that was attacking me was one that attacked others so I charged at them with my bike. They backed off and then I thought to myself “What the hell am I doing” and cycled to the supermarket. They ran away when I entered the supermarket.

A black mob attacked a D.C. commuter on a bicycle, sending him to the hospital with broken bones in his face – according to a local blogger who says:

As I was biking home on the Metropolitan Branch Trail today I came across a biker on the trail near R St NE who was severely beaten.

Apparently he was beaten by a fairly large group of African-American teenagers that I passed on the trail near the bridge near Florida Avenue.

Apparently they beat this biker, a Caucasian male who looked to be in his 50s, for no reason. …This incident occurred in broad daylight and the biker did nothing wrong.

…Notably, this was not a robbery; the group of teenagers apparently just attacked and beat this man on the trail without any obvious motive other than to beat him.”

We have an immigration policy that brings in people who claim to be refugees, and that leads to incidents such as:

A group of young, Somali men posted a video of themselves attacking pedestrians and bicyclists in St. Paul.

The suspects openly identify themselves in the video, and then attack unknowing victims. None of the victims have reported any of the attacks. St. Paul police is urging victims to step forward, if they recognize themselves in the video…

It’s not just black youths in the cities though: my brother tried commuting from the city by train to a suburb, where he wanted to continue by bicycle. So he got himself a cheap bicycle, and locked it at the train station.
The bike kept getting vandalized by suburban youths.
So finally my brother looked up a synagogue in the phone book, and he found a house which served as a synagogue and private residence and the owners were kind enough to let him lock the bike to a pole in their yard while he took the train into NYC.

What about the “holy land”:

Near Elon Moreh
Near Elon Moreh

I have Israeli relatives on the West Bank of the Jordan in a small town. They don’t dare to hike out of town, or bike out of town, but they do sometimes go by armored vehicle to a bigger town to use the swimming pool. Its been a sacrifice for them to live there, and other residents have died on the road, but they believe they should live there.
Their inability to even take a walk reflects a lack of freedom, imposed by ideological, religious, and angry men. My relatives are religious too, but their religion is Judaism, and they don’t pick fights.  Ironically, when three Jewish youths were kidnapped in this area, some European newspapers blamed these youths for what happened since supposedly being Jewish on occupied Muslim land is an excuse for losing your freedom.

Death of Isaac
Death of Isaac

On August 2, 1996 a group of over one hundred Cypriot and European motorcyclists set off from Berlin’s Brandenbourg Gate on a long and peaceful ride through many countries of Europe, heading to Cyprus. Their stated aim was to draw the world’s attention to the Turkish occupation of part of the territory of Cyprus, the artificial division of the island since 1974, and the “violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Cyprus, and in particular of their right to move freely throughout their country.”
As the motorcyclists moved through Europe on their way to Cyprus, they were joined by hundreds of European motorcyclists.
However, it became clear that there could be a violent reaction, so the last stage of the rally was cancelled. But a few of the motorcyclists decided to peacefully demonstrate at the barrier between Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus regardless, and “counter demonstrators” attacked them with the result that Anastassios Isaac, a 24-year-old Greek Cypriot, was caught in barbed wire and clubbed and beaten to death by the these people, and forty others were injured.

The “freedom of the road” has its limits.

I used to be a long-distance cyclist, but I antagonized a Mafia. They knew that I knew how they operated, and so they felt they had to keep tabs on me. After a series of warnings, which I did not heed, they attacked.
As a result, I now stay within a 40 mile radius of my suburban home.

So what is the lesson of all this?

Freedom is usually thought of as the ‘absence of constraint’. Of course a cyclist can’t cycle anywhere – he can’t cycle over the ocean, or past the North Pole, and wouldn’t want to cycle in mosquito infested swamps, etc. The man-made obstacles are interesting though – because it tells you that something is wrong with a culture in areas where people cannot cycle.

I looked up some quotes on bicycling and freedom, and found this, from Susan B. Anthony, who championed woman’s suffrage in the mid 1800’s:

Susan B Anthony
Susan B Anthony

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s