Urban Assault Ride: Curb-hopping the shark?
JustFrank of Rapid Transit worries that urban cycling has become too trendy.
Chicago Bike Blog:
How to get more people on bikes?
"On the one hand, it was heartening to see the bike industry finally embracing bikes as transportation at last year's Interbike trade show. On the other hand, I couldn't help thinking, that with the exception of a few really forward-looking companies, bike commuting was being turned into one more 'trend.' The banners that once featured mud-spattered, tooth-baring mountain bikers were replaced by images of guys in peg-legged jeans weaving through traffic with huge messenger bags on their backs, and sunny women with willow baskets full of groceries on their handlebars.
"Well, these things aren't bad in and of themselves. They do create an image of cyclists that is more mainstream, and perhaps more acceptable as an urban presence. It's just that I think these are relatively shallow efforts. We don't want bike commuting to become fashionable, because fashions come and go. We want to evolve urban culture to embrace bike culture as its essential component."
My two cynical cents that no one ever appreciates are that, well, that's exactly what industries do: they spot a trend and then exploit it to death in order to sell stuff. This, of course, leads to the trend going mainstream, at which point the trendier-than-thou won't have anything at all to do with it anymore. In the case of urban "transportation" cycling, we may well be in danger of seeing trend-setting eco-hipsters joining car-sharing programs in such droves that every other construction project in certain neighborhoods will be a gigantic parking garage for iGo Prius storage. It's probably inevitable, so let's just enjoy the trend and brag about how we've all been bike commuting since before it was cool while we still can. Afterward when people see that many dorks are still riding bikes around town like it's 2007 and even still appear to be enjoying it, then maybe they'll finally realize that we've had an excellently practical point the whole time, and then we can quit the silly popularity contest and get back to the business of transforming transportation. And then yours truly will be "elected"
I can dream, right?
Unfortunately, my short dream was interrupted by a very rude awakening:
Urban Assault Ride: Chicago, IL - 9/29
First thought: Wow, it is in very poor taste to promote something with the phrase "urban assault" in this town these days. Strike one.
But hey, clueless PR goons who have to keep up with trends all day can't possibly be expected to stay on top of the local news in the cities where they're trying to promote this or that, so let's see what this Urban Assault Ride is supposed to be all about:
"The Urban Assault Ride(TM) is a funky bike scavenger hunt that involves street-smart riding, obstacle courses, and a huge after party. Mental muscle is just as important as bike skills as teams of 2 choose their own course to checkpoints around the city."
So basically it's like an alleycat race, except with rules and corporate sponsorship, and presumably the potential liability issues have already been worked out beforehand. Oh, the hipsters are just gonna love that.
"The event is well known for its checkpoints where physical and mental obstacle courses must be completed before moving on."
Wait, if it's so well known, then why haven't I ever heard of it before? I guess I must be living under a rock because I'm ALREADY TOO BUSY RIDING MY BICYCLE to keep up with what's supposed to be well known.
"Kinda like American Gladiators with a demented cycling twist."
Well, I've just been turned off.
"The first team to hit all of the checkpoint and cross the finish line wins! Then the party begins with New Belgium beer and lots more two-wheeled shenanigans!"
Sorry, what? I was too busy thinking about how much American Gladiators sucks, even though that's another thing that's supposed to be making a trendy comeback lately. What's next, an entreaty to replace all my light bulbs and stop using plastic bags? Topical political humor? A link to your MySpace page or Facebook group?
"It is THE MOST FUN you will ever have on a bike."
How dare you presume to tell me what will be THE MOST FUN I've ever had on a bike, especially after telling me that it will be kinda like American Gladiators. Lame.
"We've received a ton of requests to bring the UAR to Chicago..."
"and here we come! It's a BIG city and it's about time for bikes to descend in force."
Uh, seen Chicago Critical Mass lately? Or even Milwauke Ave. on any given day? Oh, I get it, you're being fashionably late to the party. Whatever.
"With all the traffic and people, bikes are a great way to get around Chi-town."
A noble sentiment expressed ungrammatically. Now I'm pissed.
"We have a SWEET start/finish venue - right next to Wrigley Field."
Someone else want to launch into a north side/south side commentary on this one?
"We'll bring the beer, obstacle courses, and big wheels. You come ready for the best time ever on two wheels."
Well, if that sounds like your cup of organic free-trade tea then don't let me stop you from signing up, although I have to admit that I probably won't let that stop me from feeling a bit sorry for you if it does turn out to be the best time you ever had on two wheels. There's just so much already out there to experience by bike. Such as Bike the Drive, for example. (Hey, I can't very well shirk on my nagging duties just because I'm experiencing a fit of sarcasm, can I?)
And of course I must add that the University of Chicago has already been doing the scavenger hunt thing for decades, so we're all automatically cooler than any of you. Oh, the irony.