The Identity Politics Of The Bicycle

Here’s a question: Why don’t more libertarians enjoy bicycles?

Seriously, stay with me here: cars require a lot of government, someone needs to build and maintain roads, regulate these vehicles for safety and so on, spend on military to secure oil from overseas sources, bail out the auto industry periodically, license drivers, license vehicles and so on. Depending on the type of bike, you don’t even need pavement to get around, you move through individual effort, not through government-subsidized oil and gas. The government doesn’t have to do anything, your parents teach you and then you just get on and ride.

Now I know that libertarians would say, hey, this is your choice, we’re libertarians after all! That said, there are many lifestyle choices that libertarians do advocate, at least in North America as being more pro-freedom or whatever, cycling is almost never among these. But as I’ve just pointed out, the governmental footprint for bicycles is smaller than it is for cars.

So why don’t libertarians get on bikes and ride around free from all that government bureaucracy that the car seems to require? My suspicion is that bicycles are seen by them as the sort of things that downtown lefties ride to their organic stores and fancy coffee shops (never mind that the organic foods might come from a libertarian anyway). Because most of the libertarian “tribe” as it were does not ride bicycles other than maybe for recreation once in a while, they tend to frame cycling as one of those things that “the left” cares about and therefore an anathema to libertarianism.

There is nothing inherently anti-libertarian about riding around on a bike, it’s not a priori collectivist or whatever, but here we have a case where identity politics appear to make it so that libertarians aren’t particularly interested cycling as transportation – they already seem to identify more strongly with automobiles and therefore tend to think of cyclists as a nuisance or a threat to their car-based transportation approach.

Edit: Libertarian cyclists, if you’re out there, let me know, I’d like to hear from you! Do you consider your cycling libertarian or just a thing you do? Is your bike nicknamed John Galt?