Saturday, August 8, 2009

We are the Superior Mutants

A friend of mine recently commented that cyclists in Vancouver are getting a bad reputation amongst car drivers. Cyclists were increasingly being seen as reckless, disrespectful hellions. A legion of vehicular criminals disrupting the orderly flow of urban movement, endangering themselves and inducing stress in traffic. Some cyclists have lamented this trend and embraced the idea of legitimizing cycling by becoming domesticated in their riding style: complete adherence to the rules of traffic and road safety commingled with a heaping dose of self righteous disapproval for rule breakers. Not only is this approach selling out the unspoken bond amongst cyclists but it is a rejection of the enormous potential for individual liberation and evolution inherent in the cycling experience.

Car culture is a towering monolith in our world. An endless, seemingly inexorable, individually packaged human stampede that generates massive stress and pollution. The car experience reflects our society in numerous ugly ways: The obsession with hermetically sealed individualism. The culture of denial re: pollution. The self imposed, self regulated arbitrary limitation. Car commercials always show their subjects driving in stunning natural landscapes, alone with speed, grace and freedom. The car experience almost never reflects this vision. Cars are built to move at high speeds with maneuverability and precision. How often is this actually happening? When was the last time drivers really got to open up and DRIVE?

Perhaps this is a root of the anger directed at cyclists by automobile drivers. Envy. Cyclists are free to move in whatever way their will and strength are capable of. They are free to play with the road and its flows. Free to explore the intimacies of the urban environment and a far more direct expression of the urban experience. Directly connected to the city machine and more able to traverse it, communicate with it. Cyclists are superior mutants. Our machine implant connected to our physicality, our energy, our senses. As we move and travel we increase our abilities, our strength. We become attuned to our implant, at first as an expression of the steed, the ancient relationship between animal mount and rider. Then evolving into a hybrid creature. No longer a pair but a new type of entity. A two wheeled singularity of speed and grace. Our flesh extending beyond its organic boundaries into metal, rubber and grease. Our limbs arcing forth and down to glide onto an endless, ever shifting paved topography. With fluid grace and gnostic severity we traverse the urban experience, accelerated and wordlessly engaged with the speed of the city. We are the balance point between the flow of singular human exo-machine cells and the common human as traffic (pedestrian). Once full integration is achieved the mutant becomes a traveling myth. Transforming into fiery angels, packs of ravens, black clad assassins, butterflies, runaway locomotives...

Given the enormous pleasure and power that is so clearly radiant in the cyclist its not surprising that the automotive mutants are envious. Trapped in their exo-suits, their personal frozen ecosystems. Unable to move as they will or touch the air. Seemingly immune to the dangers of the world and all its attendant joys and epiphanies. The car as a mutation is an obsolete strain. A heavy and often joyless extension, unconnected and unconcerned with the flesh.

Car culture serves power in a number of key ways besides the obvious financial entrenchment of the oil and automotive industries. Cars serve as a relatively private space of societal catharsis. Traffic is the place to release ones personal, competitive and misanthropic urges in a heavily conditioned and regulated ritual. In addition it serves as a powerful form of population control and mediation of the senses. In the bubble, staring at the screen, alone and performing exactly as instructed by the game board and the mechanism until a sudden, fiery metallic death consumes the subject.

Bicycles share the same terrain and yet are bound only by ability and daring. In a sense the new style of cycling mutant ( the unbound singularity ) is a reflection of vehicular traffic. The automobile drivers generate the tone and style of the game due to their scale, hazardous nature and sheer numbers. If the number of cars on the road lessened considerably and traffic became a calmer more respectful process, cyclists would have no need or desire to engage in urban combat with cars.

Clearly there are those whose lives and responsibilities necessitate the use of vehicles. Parents, mass transport, medical personnel etc. These are people who are utilising automobiles in order to function with greater efficiency and maintain health and support for community. None the less on the road, in traffic, automobiles by there very nature become anti-life in the most unpleasant of ways. As cyclists become more than human automobiles transform their human cargo into something less than human akin to screens. Faceless units of annoyance. That which is in the way to all others. A cyclist who is gracious and compassionate off the road may become a demon in traffic due to this imbalance in mutational identity. By no means are cyclists perfect or ethically superior as humans. Most pollute or contribute to the death culture in numerous ways every day. But in the context of the traffic game we are superior mutants. Generating only energy, culture and ecstasy.

Cars spew pollution, generate stress, noise and contribute to a dangerous outdated paradigm. Car culture systematically annihilates this beautiful planet and yet car drivers have the audacity to complain when cyclists don't display respect. Why should a cyclist respect something so needlessly dangerous, dully ubiquitous and ugly? Car culture is a direct assault on a healthy, beautiful way of life and thus is a perfect battleground for the revolutionarily minded mutant.