In the midst of Toronto Mayor Ford’s crack scandal was a revelation about how Canadian society views adults who ride bicycles for transport. A 45-year-old man who is in the middle of the scandal was recently approached at a TD Bank by a Toronto Star reporter. The man reportedly refused to speak to the reporter before pedaling away on his bike:
“Fabio Basso refused to comment when approached by the Star while leaving a TD Canada Trust bank. He jumped on a bike and pedaled away, turning back to give an obscene gesture.”
A commenter on another news organization’s website facetiously wrote that the 45-year-old man apparently hasn’t left high school yet, given that he still uses a bicycle to get around.
This comment illustrates the perception in our society that bicycles are childish, and grown men and women who use bicycles are undignified and need to grow up.
This view has long been perpetuated by automobile advertising, which often show professional, “successful”, good looking adults driving their cars, while encountering reckless young hipsters on their bicycles.
In reality, bicycles have few age restrictions. A trip to Amsterdam or Copenhagen will illustrate this, as you will see plenty of elderly people who use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. In fact, people over 65 years old in the Netherlands make 24% of their journeys by bike.
Perhaps people in Canada could never fathom their own parents or even grandparents using a bicycle to get around. The insatiable need to conform to our car-centric society is difficult to oppress, and the perception is that older people must give up some dignity to use a bicycle as their transportation.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Urban bicycling is both dignified and healthy for people of all ages. In Shanghai they have bicycle parking spaces for handicapped folks.
Below are a few photos of some older people riding bicycles, to grant back the dignity that they rightfully deserve for choosing a fast, healthy and fun mode of transportation.
My recently retired father on his bicycle near his home in Florida – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country
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- The Unconventional Urban Citizen Bicyclist (April 2012)
- Barriers to Cycling: Debunking the Myths (Nov 2009)