We're Doing It Wrong

'This one runs on fat & saves you money' by Peter Drew of Adelaide
image by Peter Drew via Carlton Reid
This drawing has been passed around the bicycle blog circuit lately. Having started out as street art, it was then made into a stencil that's been used for t-shirts and posters. "Can street art get more people on bikes?" asks one blog, using this image as an example of an enthusiastic "yes."

So here is a question I've been wanting to ask for a long time: Why do some cyclists enjoy calling drivers fat and generally framing bicycling within a fat vs skinny value system? Are they the same people who called other kids "fatty" in the school yard as children, and is bicycle activism a platform they've found for the same behaviour to be acceptable as adults? Because that is how such images and messages can come across to non-cyclists - particularly those on the heavy side. And how do you suppose a heavy cyclist feels seeing this sort of thing - where do they fit in?

I think the only people who will find the above image appealing are those who are fit bicyclists and are proud of their bodies, which they attribute to riding a bike. But by the general population, cyclists are widely perceived as judgmental, self-righteous bullies who are also cheepskates, and this image pretty much feeds right into that. If we want to actually inspire others, as opposed to congratulate ourselves, then perhaps a different strategy is called for. There is enough body dysmorphia in our society without cyclists instilling more neuroticism and insecurity about people's weight.


  1. I agree with you... Good health is an advantage of cycling, but health and size are 2 different subjects. I would much rather be encouraged to ride for health or a good time :)

  2. "There is enough body dysmorphia in our society without cyclists instilling more neuroticism and insecurity about people's weight."

    It is normal for a group of people to need to distinguish themselves from all around them to establish an identity. For lack of a better term I call it the "Tribe Reflex" that satisfies the human need for community. So it is with cyclist........

    Up until recently, in America, the bicycle was the toy for children, the young and strong, or the very poor. Peak oil is forcing a change to that paradigm. Change that will come slow and not without some "birthing" pains and wars for resources.

    The new status for the bicycle is more in line with the rest of the world as a primary means of transportation which forces the overweight to shape up and the racer boys to retreat to the race course.

  3. I think the "Fat lane/Fast lane" would be more along the lines of your thinking. This one simply states the fact and doesn't call anybody fat.

  4. I'll bite . . . I actually kind of like the art. I began law school this fall, and it seems that the regimen of law school eats up all my free time. I used to exercise almost every day of the week. Now I'm lucky if it's 2-3 times (but I'm trying to be better...). The only reason I'm not in total despair is that I *have* to get to law school every day, which is 6 mi. from where I live, and I bike the distance. I like biking, and as a student, gas and parking stickers are just too expensive. So I've begun to look at my upright bicycle as the only thing between me and slobdom! The graffiti art eloquently speaks to my situation, and I bet it does to many others.

    Plus, in a society where the percentage of overweight and even obese people is outrageously high, I don't think a little protest art is totally out of line . . . I guess I look at it as much being much more about the decisions we citizens of a consumer culture are having to make in an downturned economy with skyrocketing gas prices than about calling someone a fatso . . .

    (on the other hand, I don't think I'd wear the tee-shirt! :))

  5. "Why do some cyclists enjoy calling drivers fat and generally framing bicycling within a fat vs skinny value system?"

    Because we're better than they are? ;)

    Seriously, though, that question isn't particularly hard to answer: self-congratulation is the point. That kind of stuff is meant mainly to cement the subculture's difference from the mainstream. I'd like to say that I don't take part in that kind of thinking, but that'd be a lie. If mainstream Americans were to start biking in large numbers, I'd almost certainly quit and do something cooler. So yeah, maintaining an oppositional identity is important -- but we're less like the schoolyard bullies who taunted the downtrodden fat kids, than like the punk-rock kids who slashed the popular kids' tires. Fat here signifies "normal," not "deviant." And normal, in a word, sucks.

  6. ndru - Thanks, I've linked that one too now. But I think the image here does insinuate that as well.

  7. Wow, I find that pretty horrible. What got me on bikes in the first place was encouragement from my brother, an accident and bike shops with that attitude drove me away for about 10 years. It wasn't until discovering blogs that I realized that bicycles can be something entirely different.

    That tactic is calculated to promote the sort of us vs. them mentality so prevalent in cycling. My mother-in-law and aunt (in law?) are both in their 60's and interested in getting on a bike for the first time. This is the sort of attitude that keeps them off of bikes and the roads.

    I'm pretty much the size and shape of a bear which doesn't change much in spite of how many miles I put on. I'm routinely dismissed at shops events etc... because I don't look like a cyclist. Ugh. At least it makes me all the happier when I can pass the lycra clad going uphill on a giant bike with kid in tow. But I've gotten more people that I know on bikes by just looking like a bear on a bike than my roadie brother has.

  8. It's not calling anyone phat; it's a concept piece.

    BTW not thrilled with the "We" in the title; it's part of the us/them thing. Occasionally I'll run into a cycling advocate on my giant bike and she/he will start the spiel. Some of these people make me want to drive more.

  9. I must say the typical cyclist in my regional area is the recreational type with very fit legs combined with a huge beer gut.

    Cycling in and of itself does NOT make people fit.

  10. Art is and has always been THE primary tool for social change. Not just graphic art, but literature, theater, cinema and music. Not always for the better - Hitler, Mao and Stalin all understood the power and used art too! - but effective. Audiences must be astute, educated and evaluative in order to understand, distinguish and agree/disagree with the messages they receive.
    There is a sense of humor with this piece. That's the effective part. Is that humor at someone's expense? That's the question one would need to answer before deciding to reject or forward the image.

  11. Apropos Gaffer's comment: Why is it considered typical for road cyclists to have soft tummies? Doesn't being in that position strengthen the core? Seems to me they should have well developed abs then.

  12. well, you know, it's not quite as pithy to say "this car runs on money and is net-negative to your health. this bike saves you money and is net-positive to your health." or maybe ... "this bike devours your laziness and lets you keep your money. this car devours your money and lets you keep your laziness."

    fwiw, on my FB feed, I usually see these sorts of photos circulated by new converts to cycling who've gradually come to appreciate the health benefits of being more active. They aren't 'fit' or looking to race or anything; but commuting or transportational cycling has certainly has made them feel better and them sending this image around has been about 'yay! this is how I feel because it happened to me!'

    It may not necessarily flip over some segments of diehard drivers, but it's can have an effect on recent converts who may need some encouragement to keep going ... especially now as the weather gets cooler and the Great Winter Winnowing begins.

  13. While I appreciate your efforts to discourage another source of body dysmorphia, I don't believe the street art in question contributes to the negative perception you identified.

    Does it really say that cyclists are skinny and drivers are fat? On the contrary, I read the very positive and encouraging message that the act of cycling helps burn fat, regardless of one's current physical condition, while the inactivity of driving offers no such benefit.

    Although the self-righteous label is definitely one to avoid, I cannot help but take pleasure in this clever contrast between the health implications of cycling vs. driving, where cycling emerges as the clear winner. How do you draw the line between congratulating ourselves and encouraging others?

  14. I think many commenters made the important point that many members of a "subculture" don't want it to become mainstream. They identify themselves as "different."

    We find the same in randonneuring, where some riders relish to tell gory stories, rather than emphasize the beauty of riding long distances, and the fact that most people can do it.

    On the other side, you have the "missionaries," who discover a great thing and then try to persuade everybody to join them.

  15. Tummies - big bel + faster backwards position = arm presses.
    No core needed. Muscles there get in the way of stomach capacity.
    Only exercise the extremities while sitting.

  16. As a long-time vegan (who found this blog through the post on classic-looking synthetic saddles!) I can tell you that fat phobia is often used to “sell” plant-based diets, too. And it’s just as sad to see in that context.

  17. cris - So it's like born again religious zealots being especially critical of the sinners such as they used to be mere months ago. I can see that. But then again, it assumes that skinny=good, something to strive for, whereas fat=bad, something to be ashamed of. I don't agree.

    Patrick - The caption says "this one [is what] makes you fat." And the linked image suggests the car lane is for fat people. Naturally not everyone will have the same perception of this stuff. But it's how I read it, and it makes me uncomfortable. And many, many of my non-cycling acquaintances have voiced the same sentiment.

  18. I'm fairly fat and I don't find this graffito offensive. It's not calling anyone fat, it's merely stating the tendencies of the two forms of transportation. The way I eat, if I drove instead of cycling I'd be so fat I wouldn't be able to see.

    On the subject of roadies with beer guts, road cyclists can benefit from having strong core muscles, but cycling doesn't do much to give you a strong core. Most serious roadies supplement their road training with core workouts. Personally, I supplement my road training with both core workouts and beer drinking, which helps to hide my rippling abs under a beautiful beer gut.

  19. I completely agree with this. Aside from the obvious that not all drivers are fat and not all cyclists are skinny, and that cycling actually ISN'T a highly effective form of exercise (mile-for-mile, minute-for-minute, you're better off running or swimming... the bicycle is a labor-SAVING device after all), it's just a very weak "argument," almost at the level of a "your mom" retort. It reminds me of the jokes about Chris Christie's weight, I don't care for the man, but there's far better things to criticize him on than his figure.

    Also, how is this going to convince the average American (who is more likely than not to be overweight) to cycle? Who wants to dip a toe into a culture that enjoys making fun of your kind? Positing cycling as a "skinny club" isn't so different from certain activities being "boys' clubs," and we already know how cycling being seen as a male thing affects female ridership.

    Instead of weight/fitness, we should instead be smug about something important, like our tiny carbon footprints!

  20. I think it's as subtle and humorous as anything you'll see written on the street.

  21. Honestly, I have never seen a fit cyclist that commutes. The super fit cyclists I see are the spandex crowd and they ride for sport, not to commute. In fact, one of those types made fun of me and another coworker because we commute by bike. So I've never lumped them into the commuter crowd and that stencil seems to advocate bike commuting.

    Friends that express interest in cycling to work say that they are mostly interested because they want to lose weight or just be more active. It's been my experience that non-cyclists already know there is a benefit to cycling and so I don't think they would see a stencil like that and think it's making fun of them. It's a reminder for what they want to do but haven't had the chance, courage, whatever to finally get on a bike.

    Personally, I have never lost weight riding a bike. Weight loss is something like 90% diet. In weight lifting there is a saying: Abs are made in the kitchen not the gym.

  22. Cheers to this blog entry! Fat shaming is for bullies.

  23. I prefer the "Burn carbohydrates not hydrocarbons" catchphrase, myself.

    It derives from the same core idea, but without being a bully about size.

  24. Bicycles run on fat. True? Yes. Energy from bicycling can come from body fat. Does this mean that all cyclists are not "fat"? No. The image does not allege this. But if a person keeps his or her caloric intake the same and switches from driving everywhere to cycling everywhere, they will lose weight. The opposite is true for switching to driving everywhere form cycling.

    The image isn't passing judgement. It's stating the facts and letting the reader decide if that's information that they would value.

  25. We are talking cause and effect - and every piece of data suggests a strong correlation between cycling and improved health. And the historical data correlates the rise of automobile driving to obesity and type 2 diabetes without any question or doubt.

    I don't see that these messages are saying that 'car drivers are fat' and 'bicyclists are slim.' These messages point to the data and to the facts -- something sorely missing in the public discourse around transportation - including costs (and who bears these), health, sustainability, and impact on daily life/livability.

    Please stop apologizing for making the facts known. Instead, continue to blare the facts from every hilltop and website and post and tweet -- because our world depends on it if the facts are correct. And so far, short of sermonizing or other religio-political blathering, there is no study, research, data, or fact-based challenge to the statements depicted in the graphic above.

  26. I'm inclined to agree with Patrick's POV -- it's talking more about outcomes, than about people.

    There is a minor problem with eschewing the "better-than" label; by a whole bunch of objective measures (of costs imposed on other people), cycling IS a better way to get around it. Are we supposed to pretend that it isn't? Yes, I suppose we could be more diplomatic about it -- it's a tribal thing, and that sort of talk does reinforce the barriers.

    There is one other thing, which is that it's not necessarily just new converts who are surprised by the health benefits. I raced when I was a kid, and did a lot of stuff on a bike (learned to ride rollers, did a couple centuries, that sort of thing), but back then, at least given all the other stuff I did, bicycling had no special effect on my health.
    Ramping up five years ago in a big way, starting from a much crappier health baseline, it DID make a big difference. But I was in no way a new convert to cycling.

    I am sort of torn between thinking that if I could bike 50 miles a week (starting in my 40s, weighing about 240lbs), than why can't everyone else, and knowing that I have a pile of residual knowledge from when I was a kid (wrenching, riding, balance) that make it much easier for me.

  27. uberfahr - But "facts" have a way of changing based on new data. What was considered fact in the medical field 10 years ago, for instance, is not necessarily considered fact today.

    Either way, as any doctor would tell you, fat vs skinny is not the same as unhealthy vs healthy. A person who appears thin may be all bones and fatty tissue and in very poor health; a person who appears chubby may be all muscle underneath and in excellent shape. But either way, I do not believe we have any right to tell people what to do with their own bodies.

  28. I dunno.. I'm a fat "Athena" and thought it was rather clever. I didn't see it as an "us VS them" sort of thing but more of a statement on oil.

    I get more bent out of shape by the "no fat chicks" graphic that is more direct and offensive. People who sport those are certainly not the kind I want to associate with. If someone had the "this one runs on fat and saves you money" I'd be more likely to strike up a conversation with them over living car free and how much fun it's been improving my health on my bike. They are more likely to be a fan of frugal living and reading "Tightwad Gazette" too :)

  29. Not seldom to be seen in Berlin, Germany: bicycle drivers using the very narrow bike lanes like drivers of heavy and very fast cars use the left lane of the highway. Ringing and shouting pedestrians out of their way - giving the impression that they deeply feel to have the right to do this, as it is "their" bike lane - pretty much alike car drivers using light and sound signals to push slower drivers out of their way. In Paris by comparison I didn`t notice this kind of childish behaviour.

  30. Paraphrased real news headline today: A Slow Web Connection Makes You Skinnier.

  31. Cycling actually ISN'T a highly effective form of exercise (mile-for-mile, minute-for-minute, you're better off running or swimming... the bicycle is a labor-SAVING device after all), it's just a very weak "argument,"

    While both running and swimming are more aerobic forms of exercise than casual cycling and can contribute to more rapid weight loss than cycling, how effectively can you incorporate either of those into your daily routine without devoting time exclusively for them? Cycling allows you to at least integrate mild exercise into things you have to do one way or another-- shopping, commuting to work, etc. Can't do those while swimming, and I don't recall seeing any runners carrying shopping bags lately.

    Personally, I have never lost weight riding a bike. Weight loss is something like 90% diet. In weight lifting there is a saying: Abs are made in the kitchen not the gym.

    Well, it *can* be, but doesn't have to be. Weight loss can also be from aerobic activity, which consumes fat. Weight lifting is not aerobic, and doesn't burn fat. It only builds muscle mass. You need to distinguish between muscle building and aerobic activity. Cycling can be aerobic exercise if you want it to be.

    I must be in the minority, then, since the only exercise in my life is cycling, and I've lost 45 lb in four years since I started cycling again (after a 15 year hiatus). I've also trimmed my food intake, but I personally believe that cycling has contributed at least 50% toward my weight loss.

    On top of that, most of my cycling is short daily commuting and utility riding (grocery shopping, kid-toting, etc). I only go on recreational/sport riding about twice per month.

    I don't think that the message conveyed in the graffito is that there is a dichotomous 'fat' divide between the cyclists and the motorists, but rather, as other posters have already mentioned, it sends the message that cycling promotes healthy behavior, while driving does not. The presentation of that message is a little tongue-in-cheek, but even as someone who used to be, um, 'robust', I take no offense by it.

  32. Anon 1:50 - Ha! I remember my first time in Berlin and being absolutely terrified by cyclists' behaviour on the bike paths.

  33. Making fun of people who are somewhat overweight is almost an American pastime. It's also thoughtless and smugly self-satisfied in its perspective.

    There is also a strain of the bicycle ethic that is much like the one satirized beautifully in the South Park episode about hybrid cars (Season 10, Episode 2, "Smug Alert").

  34. Regardless of whether or not the art in question contributes to the body dysmorphia problem, it certainly contributes to the notion that cyclists are a sanctimonious bunch. Were I not already a velophile, my response to the image might very well be to think, "Yes, I could stand to be in better shape, but there's no way I want to hang out with that guy. I'll take up currach rowing instead."

  35. again from Berlin. Here driving a bike used to be kind of a political statement for quite a lot of people. It definitely is a mainstream means of transportation now and as a consequence behavior styles have become more mainstream. new users and styles of use do emerge on the other side, though. A more relaxed, urban and connoisseur-like behaviour is gaining ground as well - proving again that bikes become even more mainstream here.

  36. I lived in Vienna for several years, and the cycle paths there are organised very similarly to the way they are in Berlin: on the sidewalk and designated by a special colour but usually not a raised surface and without a partition. And like in Berlin, tourists tend to stray onto the paths in the city center where all the museums are. In Vienna cyclists will just sort of cycle slowly around the tourists. In Berlin cyclists get angry and don't want to slow down. Either way, this is one flaw of cycle paths that is difficult for cities to overcome. I don't think that bicyclists are inherently any different from car drivers: Nobody wants to be late to work, and people are impatient. So fast cyclists get annoyed by slow cyclists and both get annoyed by pedestrians. Just human nature.

  37. " A Slow Web Connection Makes You Skinnier."

    Yup. And reading bicycle blogs "makes you fat" probably more so than driving.

  38. probably you are right with the observation that bike and car drivers are alike - and quite often the same people indeed in different roles. what makes bicycle driving different to me is the opportunity to keep off the jam and sometimes rather aggressive style on berlin streets. in a car one cannot escape from this. sometimes feeling like a partisan...

  39. Anonymous 1:50 said—
    Ringing and shouting pedestrians out of their way - giving the impression that they deeply feel to have the right to do this, as it is "their" bike lane - pretty much alike car drivers using light and sound signals to push slower drivers out of their way.

    I'm a bit confused about your critique here. Why is it a problem for cyclists to want pedestrians out of the bike lanes? Perhaps I'm too eingedeutscht. :-)

  40. Cycling does little or nothing for abs. Climbing hills makes use of a few ab muscles, stresses the back.
    Cyclists, especially those who have limited their physical activity to keyboards and pedals, need supplementary ab work.
    Don't try sprinting w/o ab work. You'll get hurt.

  41. Thank you for this post. I agree with you. Things like this just feed the problems between cyclists and cars. This is just another reason for the already annoyed driver to keep hating any cyclist he sees no matter who they are, and another reason for the uppity cyclist to keep thinking he is better than the person who drives 2 blocks to pick up their dry cleaning or whatever. I would like to see more posts like this, that keep these issues real, and point us to the personhood of us all that often gets ignored in 'artistic statements' like this. Your post is a mature and humble response that I would like to see more often regarding these issues between cyclists and other vehicles on the roads.

  42. I appreciate the sentiment in this art, but I do not believe that cycling magically makes people thin. I have close friends and family who eat a very healthy diet and exercise intensely and are not thin. But they are strong and fit. I, on the other hand, eat a moderately healthy diet and remain about the same weight no matter what level of exercise I'm into at the moment. I'm thin, but not through any great virtue. The idea that thin-ness = virtue causes pain for people who have bodies that just don't cooperate.

    My own story is that I started cycling for the love of it, not because I needed the exercise. While I respect that some people may choose to cycle as part of a weight-loss plan, I think it's perfectly okay to choose cycling for other reasons. Cycling is something everyone should be able to enjoy, no matter what their body size.

  43. @ sausend

    it`s a question of the "how" to me. what happens here sometimes is exactly what can be experienced on german autobahns - having no general speedlimit. a very fast car, i.e. like 250km per hour bombs down the lane until it approaches an obstacle in the form of a slower car. then it sticks to the bumpers of this car until the lane is cleared again. and this kind of style is to be found with bike drivers as well. which is relatively harmless in comparison, of course. but still, to me it is not so good style.

  44. My wife and I don't own a car, we walk or ride our bicycles just about everywhere we go (10-20 miles per day, for me), we even make 98% of our own food, and it's healthy and well-balanced, and yet my wife is still "plus sized" - I myself have a nice little pooch and am hardly fit and trim.

    I agree with Velouria on this one, I think bringing weight and fat into it is just pretty much negative. It's deriding one person for being fat, when you just happen to have a small body type and high metabolism - or the desire to push yourself very hard in order to specifically lose weight (which also does not necessarily equal healthy). I know my wife felt this pressure when starting to ride a bicycle for transportation, because there really is that social pressure for specifically _losing weight_ by doing exercise - and that someone who is therefore "fat" and riding a bicycle is obviously doing something wrong.

  45. None of those pieces of street art are calling anyone fat.
    They are just underlining the consequences of driving cars vs. active transportation. And YES driving instead of any other active transport increases your chances of being fat. And getting around active-style does contribute to better health and less fat.

    Those are facts whether we like it or not.

    That's the reason you see more and more health organisations joining in the campaigns to promote cycling among other things.

    Political correctness should not become a repressive tool in the name of which we cannot tell the truth anymore.

  46. First, great blog, Velouria, I've been lurking for a few weeks, but this is my first response.

    I'd replace the drawing with one that showed two scenes with a common caption:

    On the left a commuter cyclist in the saddle eating a bowl of granola plus fruit cereal; on the right a motorist in a car at the gas pump with a large $ number on the meter. And the caption reads: "Fill 'er up, please."

    Leave fitness and body size out of it and make the economic case, especially now during what may be a long recession.

    Brief bio: I'm a semi-retired archivist, just turned 66 in August saddled up on a Linus Roadster 8 and so far loving it.

  47. @ V

    "Why is it considered typical for road cyclists to have soft tummies?"

    Because of the tons of "Freds" who kit up as professional cyclists and are nothing but poseurs. I know tons of them. These spend more time drinking beer cheering at the Amstrongs and Cavendishes of this world than actually cycling.
    Unless you can tell the ones from the others, you'll lump them all in the same gang.

    "Doesn't being in that position strengthen the core? Seems to me they should have well developed abs then."

    Cycling does not affect your abs. Professionnal cyclists are skinny and you feel they have abs because they have no fat on them, making the abs visible.
    But the reality is that cycling is a legs only endurance-based activity.
    In *that* position, your upper body is hanging from the skeletton. Basically, you need a good spine. No muscles involved. Oh, maybe the arms a bit to avoid collapsing on the handle bar.

  48. I agree.
    You can't bully people on to a bike, you should encourage them.
    Obviously people already know that riding a bike is healthier than driving a car, but you don't need to insult people that choose not to ride one.
    If we want to become a society of bike riders, we need to take non-riders under our wings and help them start off easy. Let them know that it is a fun and satisfying feeling to feel the find through your hair and see a change in your body because of your choice to cycle!

  49. I think this topic can be broken down even farther, within the cycling community alone. I think the overwhelming "attitude" that the general public doesn't like about cyclist stems from the sport rider. Of course this is largely due (if not the only reason), to the shear volume of sport riders vs. the commuter/tourer.

    From personal experience, I have been on the receiving end of the jeers, "evil eye" and the blatant "ON YOUR LEFT FAT-ASS" or some variant of the sort and it came from a "brother of the chainring". Conversations with these folks are non existent whereas, someone who commutes (in my opinion) is generally more open to conversation and offering advice and what-not and shows no judgement towards my size.

    As for getting people out of the car and on a bike? as it is with most things, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

    Be nice.

  50. I recently visited Amsterdam, where the cyclists ride fast on the cycle paths and the pedestrians know to stand back. Those that don't are reminded by a proactive "ring ring" of the bell.

    As for the "runs on fat" image, like others I don't read it as a skinny cyclist vs. fat driver thing, but as the benefits and costs I personally get from my choice of transportation. When I choose my bike, I get to burn fat and save money. In my car, I waste money and don't get any exercise.

  51. "Peppy said...I am just big boned."

    I'm with Peppy! :o)

    Anyway, I think as a society we're far too hung up on size, and as Velouria pointed out, an individual can be thin and quite out of shape, and vice versa. Do many of us have poor eating habits? Yes. Should we spend more time being active? Absolutely. I'm not sure that driving in a car is what is making "us" overweight (though it certainly isn't helping). I 'get' the street art and the idea behind it, and I'm all for promoting two wheeled transportation over four wheeled any day of the week, but this is not the only commentary/art/etc that touches on, or in some cases, blatantly announces that people are overweight because they are lazy, fat slobs who routinely shove ding dongs down their pie holes all day long. <-- Hmm.. maybe that sounds a little angrier than I intended... My point is, that while I don't view this particular piece necessarily as "fat bashing," there is a great deal of that going on in much of what I read, see, and hear in the cycling world. Not to mention, just being an overweight person existing in the every day world. Why do people think it's okay to assume things about others and their habits... and then tell them all about what they "should" be doing? I've droned on about this in great detail in the past though, so I'll refrain from cluttering your space here, but suffice to say, I'm with V... "If we want to actually inspire others, as opposed to congratulate ourselves, then perhaps a different strategy is called for."

  52. I find it offensive primarily because I find it quite stupid to invent dichotomies that support the self-satisfaction of few people at the potential expense of many. Also preaching to the choir is a common, but ineffective marketing strategy.

    FWIW, as a data point I am "fit" though I do no exercise at all other than get around by heavy German bike. And I walk. I also get in cars to go places.

  53. V -- I think you're splitting hairs a bit here (or perhaps unconsciously setting up your strawman). I think we can both agree that there is an unfair glorification of skinny people and a demonization of heavier people, but it wouldn't be inconsistent for me to agree with you and also say that obesity can be a real problem for a lot of folks and exercise is an oft ignored preventative health measure for many.

    I don't want people to be skinny. I want them to be healthy. The graphic says that the bike runs on fat, like an exercise machine. It helps people exercise, which can be healthy; instead of a car, which encourages people to be sedentary and might carry health risks.

    You also misconstrue a bit of my earlier point (though perhaps this was essential for your comparison?) I think that as the weather gets colder and a little more unpleasant, people will tend to exercise less. It's not just a biking thing. Joggers go indoors. Getting up early to go to the gym is a little harder if mornings are darker, etc. Folks hermit, they stop exercising. They put on pounds and then they resolve, in the New Year, to get rid of them again. Messages like this might be important reminders for folks who've gotten on the bandwagon to keep at it. Find the extra motivation to get gloves and fenders. Get brighter lights if your evening commute gets a little dark. Don't go back in the car just yet.

    I think that there can certainly be arguments around the effectiveness of abusing the stick of guilt trips rather than the carrot of convenience when it comes to evangelizing cycling as a lifestyle. Bringing body politics into a message where it is marginally pertinent wouldn't be necessary.

  54. I think the fit vs fat thing totally misses the point for a lot of cyclists, which is to save gas and try to be good to the planet.

    I'm fit, but that's because I train for and run marathons. I ride a bike because I'm a student and I don't have enough income to make rent AND fill up my tank once a week. If I drove to school every day, I would still be fit from running.

    Sometimes I do get a kick out of going somewhere on my own power rather than gasoline, but there are people out there who physically CAN'T ride a bike. Wearing a shirt like that would only be hurtful towards them.

  55. Very well put - thoughtful, sensitive, and caring. I'm with you 100%.

  56. Cris - I am definotely not "setting up a strawman" here. More like trying to verbalise a gut reaction. I have a very negative emotional response when I see these types of images and messages and it makes me ashamed to be associated with "cyclists" as a social group.

    Though by most standards I am not "fat," I would like the option of being "fat" in the future if I so desire without feeling as if I am inferior in the eyes of cyclists. I also don't think "fat" is inherently less attractive than "slim" and I am uncomfortable with the value judgments associated with these terms. Finally, I feel that the value we as a society place on physical fitness and slenderness is creepy, and I don't want any part of it thank you very much. Fat, beautiful cyclists - who may or may not also be drivers - are welcome here.

  57. Not to go into this fat/thin thing ad nauseum but to point out it's not cycling that makes you thin, it's the intensity of the activity, regardless of weight.
    Abs, same thing - if you go hard enough every muscle in your body will be taxed, abs included.
    It's just harder to reach this level if one has extra avoirdupois or isn't willing to suffer.

  58. Quoted- "Honestly, I have never seen a fit cyclist that commutes. The super fit cyclists I see are the spandex crowd and they ride for sport, not to commute. "

    *Raises hand*. I'm very fit. So is my boyfriend. Not from cycling, mind you, because as someone else pointed out, the bicycle is a labor *saving* tool. But we both work out, lift weights, run, etc, and are in fantastic shape. *And* we both commute by bike. We fit commuters exist.

    Contrast that to our lycra-clad neighbor, who does 60 mile sport rides with his friends regularly, but is very overweight, has an enormous middle-age-man gut and simply isn't fit.

    Biking isn't all its cracked up to be in terms of a "fat-burning" habit. Sure, it is a great way for people who haven't been working out to ease into cardio. But in and of itself, its not likely to make a "fat" person fit. Its other things like weight-lifting and running that will do that. Therefore, sport biking (does not equal) fit, commuting (does not equal) not fit. Its much more about what else you do when you're *off* the bike.

  59. I've been a cyclist and carfree for the past 16 years. I'm also fat and I smoke. This leads to some funny looks on occasion from some fellow cyclists (and fitness nuts in general).

    Some of the roadie types get a bit upset when I pass them on hills while wearing street clothes, carrying a couple bags of groceries, and smoking a cigarette.

    Surprisingly I get very little attitude from the fixie or bike messenger crowd.

    Similarly motorcyclists and scooter riders tend to be friendly. Something about sharing a two-wheeled form of transportation and facing similar dangers from clueless cage drivers.

    In any case I do find the self-righteous attitudes of some cyclists to be rather annoying and not helpful in either getting more people to ride bikes or in getting more bike infrastructure. The cyclist=skinny, driver=fat message really only helps the person repeating it feel better about themselves and little else.

  60. I'm a fat cyclist (of the commuter variety). I don't find the graffiti offensive, but I'm not too keen on the 'fat lane' one that's linked.

    I have also been a fat runner at various times in my life. If anyone comments on how slow (or fat) I am going, I just think that I'm going faster than they are sitting on their butts.

  61. Velouria, your reaction to this graphic mirrors mine exactly and I sincerely appreciate you for airing it so clearly.

    I used to be disgusted by cyclo-smugness. Now I try to be amused. Mostly, though, I feel a vague sense of pity for those whose need for validation forces them to seek it even for the simple act of riding a bicycle.

  62. Hey Brittney, I'm hella fit and all I do is ride a bike! Try telling Alberto Contador he's a chub.

  63. Change the "you" to "me," and it's perfectly fine, isn't it? I don't think it's calling anyone fat, it's stating some facts that help us to remember why we bike.

  64. Personally I like to see every shape and size of person on a bike. There's something aesthetically pleasing about the curves of a generous gal echoing the curves of a bike. The Italian grandfather down the road from me who has bowed legs and the most delightfully rotund tummy is adorable (though I'm glad he's into baggy trousers rather than lycra). To me, seeing everyday people out enjoying cycling is heartwarming. Globally it is an equalising, accessible activity for all. I care about the planet and I'd like to live to a ripe, old age. What I don't care for is being associated with a group that is seen to be self-congratulatory and a tad sanctimonious.

  65. I don't have the time to read all the comments tonight but hope to, tomorrow morning, on my train ride into work. For now I want to say:

    I L O V E biking and it's been a huge improvement in the quality of my life since I returned to it a couple of years ago after a 20-year layoff. The friendships, the exercise, the meditation-in-motion.

    But this graffiti evokes in me the insufferable smugness of many self-styled biking advocates.

    I saw an ad the other day for biking caps where you can order them with your own slogans embossed on the side. I think I'm going to have one made reading: My other bike is a car.

  66. Cyclists as self-righteous cheapskate bullies?! Where is the data to support this perception or assertion coming from?

  67. Perhaps it would be more apt to say, "one improves you healthy and saves you money, the other costs you money and does nothing for your health." it's not as catchy but the sentiment is better. I disagree though about the part about money makes cyclists seem like cheapskates, if anything it's stating an observation; I only have to fill up my car's tank once a month since I've started commuting by bike.

  68. fair enough, V, and I'm certainly not a fitness nut, either.

    I prefer to watch a chicken roasting to watching a scale, and I can certainly agree that the faddishness of diets and workout regimes can show that the pursuit of health as an end in and of itself can be as neurotic and dysfunctional as unbridled sloth and gluttony. Much in the same way, I don't find the conflation of 'thinness' and 'health' helpful either -- because 'weight' can be just as useful\useless for gauging the health of a person as it is in gauging how pleasant a bike may be to ride. It's just one aspect depending on priority.

    Yet, with all that said, I still don't find that message to be offensive. If anything it falls in with my sense that the bicycle is a win-win lifestyle choice. You save money, and you can rationalize having an extra cookie "for the gas tank". What's not to love? :p

    Though, I also chuckled when a friend on Facebook reposted the image and someone else said, "wait 'til winter and your drivetrain rusts over after leaving your bike outdoors. then you'll see that it still runs on money."

  69. lol-- chillax, Ground Round Jim. I'm not looking to pick a fight with you. I never said a certain type of biker could or couldn't be fit, even if biking is all they do. What I said was, "in and of itself, its not *likely* (KEY WORD) to make a "fat" person fit." I never said biking didn't make people healthier. I never said it couldn't change an average person into a more fit one. You're assuming I think biking (a form of exercise) can't help people get healthier. That's just stupid. I also never said "Alberto Contador was a chub." You're putting ridiculous words in my mouth.

    What I said was, by *only* biking, MOST "fat" people won't suddenly become "fit"... though they may very well become *fitter*.

    And, I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm pretty sure "Alberto Contador" along with 99% of other pro-bikers do "cross-training"- they run, swim, lift weights...none of them *only* bikes, which is the same for pro-athletes of all sports. Your peak physical fitness comes from doing a wide variety of training exercises rather than repeating one kind of work-out ad nauseum.

  70. I think peoples reactions says a lot about them. As the comments above show, many people agree with you that "This one runs on money and makes you Fat" is calling drivers fat. I'm with the folks that don't see it that way. I can't recall all the articles I've read the last few years like this one in Slate,http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2011/05/your_commute_is_killing_you.html which states: "In the past decade or so, researchers have produced a significant body of research measuring the dreadfulness of a long commute. People with long transit times suffer from disproportionate pain, stress, obesity, and dissatisfaction." It's undeniable that driving contributes to fat accumulation. Of course, so many other aspects of a persons life determines if they will become overweight or obese. But the simple statement of the graphic is true. Riding a bike burns calories, some percentage of it from fat stores, and driving leads to fat storage. ( and lots of other problems) Are we so politically correct and overly sensitive that we can't recognize factual statements when we see them. Do we really have to invest emotionally in everything we see? This from a guy who commutes by bike to work most days, is 5 feet 10 inches, 168 lbs (so looks pretty fit) but still has over 20% body fat and is glad my trip to work is helping in a small way to correct that.

  71. I think the body image meme is a red herring and ultimately self-defeating. It just re-enforces those of us who chose to be car free as snobs. Here, I see people of *all* body shapes on bicycles - and the sign in the local bike store "runs on apples and bananas" - with the price of those vs. the price of gas a more effective draw. Yes, those of us who bike *tend* to be leaner and more fit...but the real key to getting more people on bikes is going to be be appealing to a) the pocketbook and b) it's fun.

  72. YES. and as a fat woman, that sentiment helped keep me from getting on a bike for a long time. even though I ride daily, it hasn't affected my size, but it -does- make me feel happier & healthier.

  73. I agree with those who don't find it offensive. I too read it as "me" rather than "you". But I see it as cycling is healthier and greener rather than skinner. I am pretty sure I would get fatter if I drove. It reminds me of the alternative, which I guess makes me smug.

    I do agree with Neil about Vegans promoting plant based diets. In Brisbane a popular cycle route is to ride up Mt Coot-tha. But as you slowly pedal of the hill you get some irritatingly smug graffiti to read "Got Fat?" ... "Go Vegan". I think one day I will go for a ride with a can of black paint and spray over it. It get's me annoyed every time I ride over it.

  74. Wow, great conversation going on here. I was surprised to see so many people in favor of the drawing. I agree with you, Veloria, regarding the point that we should not focus on fat. It sends an exclusionary message and can be insulting to some cyclists. I don't mind the sort of "us v. them" dichotomy, though, because it's true that there are some major differences in how biking v. driving a car can affect health, budgets and the use of non-renewable resources. I don't think we should coddle drivers and ignore these truths in the probably vain hope that they will decide to start riding a bike one day (not that that's your argument). So I like the idea of a clever message to express that point, but the message pictured above is not one I support, because it shouldn't be about "fat." Maybe something that talks about running on your own energy v. sapping your energy - I don't know, I'm not a copywriter, but I'm sure someone could come up with something better.

    As for the stereotype of people who ride bikes, I think the one you put out here is a bit harsh. I'm sure many people think of bicyclists that way, but I'm not sure it's the defining stereotype. Way before I ever considered riding a bike, I thought of bicyclists as happy, healthy, granola-eating people with much more energy than I. Sort of like Rob Lowe's character on Parks & Rec. :) I had no negative associations of people who rode bikes and don't remember hearing anyone else make any snide remarks. Now that I'm a bicyclist and read lots of news stories on bicycling and see all the horrible comments that crazy people make, I'm more sensitive to negative stereotypes, but I remind myself that most of the people who comment on news stories are batshit crazy (just read some of the comments they write about any non-bicycling news story).

  75. V - I agree with your discomfort regarding this issue. I don't have much use for this kind of judgmental misanthropy either. Ever notice that it's always these kind of self appointed moralists who often flirt with totalitarian solutions?

  76. Brittney, so you didn't say this, " But in and of itself, its not likely to make a "fat" person fit. Its other things like weight-lifting and running that will do that."

    The implication is cycling doesn't make you fit period, in order to get fit you have to do these other activities. Your words, own them.

    And, I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm pretty sure "Alberto Contador" along with 99% of other pro-bikers do "cross-training"- they run, swim, lift weights...none of them *only* bikes, which is the same for pro-athletes of all sports. Your peak physical fitness comes from doing a wide variety of training exercises rather than repeating one kind of work-out ad nauseum."

    Did you get that from Crossfit.com or did you make that up. Seriously, get your facts right. Guessing isn't allowed here.

    Since you don't know anything about professional cycling let me educate you: up until recently no top pros did anything off the bike aside from hike for pleasure during the off season. Now they'll do a lot of core work.

    Don't ascribe your narrow view of fitness to the general world. Fitness is many different things, not just looking good and feeling good. Stick to what you know and not what you think you know.

    If you feel you are in "fantastic shape", in your humble opinion, get on a bike and chase some guys who are really fast.

    You wouldn't last 100 feet, much less 100 miles.

  77. I am a cyclist, and a fat one at that. I cycle in a city (non-US) where spandex is the norm and NO-ONE would guess that I love my bike more than my bank account. I know that I don't fit the "typical" cyclist mode. And I don't care. Do I love cycling? Hell yes.
    Do I love the health benefits? Hell yes.
    Do I think that cycling, alone, is going to fix my weight problems? No.
    Do I know that it will keep those weight problems from escalating into "out of control" problems? "Know"? No. "Hope?" Yes.
    Bottom line - I love cycling for the sake of cycling. I loved cycling in Chicago, IL, USA in part because I could just CYCLE with no justification. I love cycling in [current city] because it seems so WEIRD. Am I burning fat? Yes. Yes I am. Is it the main reason I cycle? No. But do I sit smugly on my seat when smaller, fitter people drive by?
    Hell. Yes.

  78. lol @ GRJ. You're just another internet trolling curmudgeon who enjoys flouncing his ignorance around trying to irritate perfectly happy people. Or, you're just a vewwy sensitive pewwson and I've upset your delicate cycling sensibilities.

    Either way, your absurdity is not worth my time. 100 feet indeed. If you genuinely think my idea of fitness is "looking and feeling good," you're even dumber than you originally let on. Like cheerfully, obstinately stupid.

    For the record (and yes, I understand this is the interwebz, so no, I can't "prove" this), I am a state-championship athlete with more records than you have fingers...unless you happen to have polydactyly. :) Tell me, GRJ, how many cycling records do you hold?

    Actually, don't, because you've wasted enough of my time already. Go troll someone your own size. :)

  79. Oh boy. I did not notice this little spat (Brittney & Jim) until there were already a couple of comments from each of you. Please let's end here or I will remove them all, which would be a shame b/c they include some funny stuff.

    Brittney - Cycling Peppy (who sometimes comments here) happens to be a polydactyl and also a record-holding track cyclist, and she would probably hiss at you both.

  80. I'm going to bow out with this: no sport is better than any other, despite the number of state championships one may hold. BTW that's a genetic gift, not a metric on how much better one sport is than another.

    You can refute stuff without calling someone a name, but that does require restraint and focus. As an athlete I'll ask you a question: can you hold a 2000 watt sprint on a bike for 30 seconds? 425 watts for 45 minutes?

    So you've never set foot at V's blog yet you're calling me a troll, yet you're calling me names. Perfectly happy here, thanks.

    See ya kid.

  81. Great graphic! But I think the caption for the graphic might also read:

    Bike: "This one burns off fat and makes you healthy"
    Car: "This one keeps you fat and far less wealthy"



  82. There was a recent article in Canada about how some doctors were refraining from calling obese children fat so as not to hurt their feelings. But when does one go too far to be polite? Obese is obese and it is a health issue. But it is not fun, nice or decent to laugh at people either.
    The creator of this 'street art' probably wasn't thinking about hurting peoples feelings-just the fact that having an active lifestyle and cycling is better for your health, whereas a lifestyle totally dependent on cars and driving is not good for your health. They ought to have worded it much better. There are also loads of cyclists and active people that are big and healthy, so they shouldn't be made to feel bad either.
    Yet, obesity costs a fortune to taxpayers in terms of health care. longevity, disability, lack of mobility etc.. It is a collective problem-at least in countries with nationalized health care.
    I had a car for a few years, and I stopped biking partly because I was in a remote area and thought I couldn't bike it. In hindsight I could have, but at the time.... anyway, in a few short years of mostly driving I lost a great deal of my muscle, tone etc and gained fat. Even with lots of hiking etc, I still lost so much physical fitness by driving everywhere. You just sit there, it's not very hard work, it's warm, dry, there's music, you can eat, drink, blah blah blah...
    You have experienced how cycling-especially road cycling has changed your body, improved your health-and those aren't even your goals. Do you think of yourself as a cheap, mean elitist cyclist? Or are you and all the cyclists you know decent people?
    As with the environment, it has to cease being a special interest thing for lefty greenies. Everyone benefits from a healthy population and environment, which cycling creates.
    It's the easiest thing one can do! Start cycling! Loads of people who are low income and spend too much on cars, gas etc could just try cycling and they would save so much money! But it is a choice, and there are only so many ways you can nicely and politely ask people to make better choices.

  83. I hiss in your general direction.

  84. As someone who alternates between driving and cycling, I'm not offended by that art in any way.

    As a commuter cyclist, I've never been particularly skinny but there is definitely a difference in my size when I'm doing it on a regular basis.

    I also really like Jn's modification to the caption :-)

  85. OK, just some observations here: If you went by BMI, I would be obese. If you just looked at me in spandex you would say I was some super-fit body building guy. I'm neither. I am the epitome of "big-boned", the last time I was anywhere near my "ideal" weight on the US Army's height-weight charts I was so weak I had to be helped out of bed, and I looked terrible. When I'm near my optimum weight I have a bit of a belly that turns into a 6 pack when I pull in my gut. I ride everywhere I can on my bike, averaging about 150 miles a month strictly for transportation, and I have ridden as many as 450 miles a month (5000 miles a year) just getting to and from work.

    I don't do that "e" word that implies wasted time and effort, I changed my lifestyle so that I was more active in my daily life. I'm 35 pounds lighter than my heaviest, much happier, and somewhat better looking. And I agree with the way the graffito is worded. Cycling every day burned my fat, that driving every day had put on.

  86. I very much agree with this entry. Promoting bikes as exercise hasn't been demonstrated to increase rates of cycling. Neither has associating them with saving money. People cycle when there is infrastructure to do it safely. They do it when it's the most convenient. We need only to look at the Netherlands.

    The US (and much of the West) has a multi-faceted problem with understanding obesity. We accept fallacious dietary recommendations from our government while continuing to allow it to subsidize and promote products that harm us. Then we blame overweight people for lacking willpower.

  87. "Ever notice that it's always these kind of self appointed moralists who often flirt with totalitarian solutions? "

    Hurrah, the butter's all gone!


    (I suppose I nearly Godwin'd myself just then.)

    I agree with V- we have no right to tell anyone else what to do with their bodies.


  88. "There was a recent article in Canada about how some doctors were refraining from calling obese children fat so as not to hurt their feelings. But when does one go too far to be polite? Obese is obese and it is a health issue."

    This is what common sense would command. For the sake of not hurting people's feelings, truth cannot be told anymore.
    Whatever. It's a democracy out there, people are free to choose mediocrity.

  89. @ Corey

    "I agree with V- we have no right to tell anyone else what to do with their bodies."

    I guess in the land of "to each their own" healthcare system, maybe this holds.

    In a land of universal healthcare system, excuse me but I don't see why in the world why I should be subsidizing those who choose to trash themselves or do nothing abotut their problems.

    In the same fashion it is ok to tell people smoking is not good for them, unprotected random sex is not good, abusing alcool or drugs is not good, drunk drivingis not good, beating own's wife is not good, raping one's children is not good etc. then it is perfectly ok to tell people that being overweight is not good. Period.

    That's called *PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY*.
    The fact that some poeple's feelings get hurt or whatever the freaking heck does not change anything to the health costs we all share.

    The day risky beahaviour people get excluded from the system's coverage, I'll stop caring. But that's no decent way to organise a community, so let's not let that happen.
    Like it or not, overweight people are and will continue to be at the receiving end of campaigns, thank you very much.

  90. Montrealize... I don't even know what to say. Subsidised health care does not mean impinging on individual sovereignty and the dignity of personal choice. It is a subjective decision which life choices are good for us and which tax the healthcare system. And no authority has the right to tell human beings what to do with their bodies, minds and souls, to dictate which activities are risky. Otherwise, how far can we take this? Monitor each other's food intake and sexual behaviour? How closely? There have already been governments that have done that, initially with the best of intentions.

  91. You can't hate people for their own good.

  92. Velouria,

    At no point did anyone say there was going to be "impinging".
    But what there must be is, and that's simply common sense, information and campaigns to tell the truth so as to influence people's choices in the right direction. Not force them, fortunately or unfortunately, depends on how you see it, but simply influence.

    That's legitimate.

    "And no authority has the right to tell human beings what to do with their bodies, minds and souls, to dictate which activities are risky."

    You might want to read more carefully your health insurance documents.
    Mine (complementary) certainly do tell me that parachute jumping, skydiving, suicide attempts etc. are risky and I shall not be covered if anything happens to me while indulging in them. In the name of what, pray tell, does anyone dictate what I should do or not do?
    Well, that's the reality of cost-sharing.

    And it is not just a question of cost but of community living. I live in a condominium, and believe me, rule number 1 of community living is you cannot do whatever you want, regardless of your feelings about that. You can't blast music out at 3 am just because you feel like it. Oh, what about your freedom? Well, you are SHARING something with others so please respect them.

    Oh, and have you ever heard of the term *pre-existing condition*? As in "I shall not cover you because your past behaviour is a sign of future problems, i.e. you are risky"?
    Exactly. Yet, you do not feel you are living in a totalitarian society do you? Well, let's try to give those insurance companies the "freedom of lifestyle choice" talk and see what comes.

    Well we, luckily, do not have any such nonsense as pre-exisiting condition exclusions. Everybody is covered, regardless, for free. FOR FREE damn it.
    So let's keep the system alive by not burdening it with stupid and avoidable costs.

    "There have already been governments that have done that, initially with the best of intentions"

    And there are governments right now who simply don't cover their population, wti hthe best of intentions as well!
    I prefer my system.

  93. I think the only people who will find the above image appealing are those who are fit bicyclists and are proud of their bodies, which they attribute to riding a bike. But by the general population, cyclists are widely perceived as judgmental, self-righteous bullies who are also cheepskates, and this image pretty much feeds right into that.

    Yes and yes, pretty much.

    The latter is unfair to most cyclists, but the loudmouths color perceptions that way, in all groups of people. Sad but unavoidable.

    (More power to people who bike year round, in all weather, and enjoy it.

    But the rejoinder from most of the non-religious will be along the lines of "Yeah, and this one keeps me from freezing in mid-winter or getting soaked going to work the 6 months a year it's raining here in Portland - stop being such preachy jerks".)

  94. Montrealize - This is another one of those discussions that can't be resolved in the comments section of a bicycle blog. Suffice to say that I disagree with you, and I think that what you describe is in fact a type of impinging on human sovereignty. It's a slippery slope. In my view, shaming people for being fat is just a moral hop away from forcibly restricting diets, which is just another moral hop away from euthanising those who don't comply. But I get that you don't see it that way, and I don't want to engage in an endless argument about a very difficult issue.

  95. Velouria,

    You are right. Issues such as these go well beyond blog discussions.
    Yet you brought the issue up. And people who usually share the views that you have expressed (i.e. that campaigning against obesity stigmatise overweight people) usually, somehow, do not feel the same about other types of campaigns: drug abuse, alcoolism, random uprotected sex, anorexia, forced vaccination, homelessness and all other social problems.
    Somehow, with these people, this is just fine. You can stigmatise these ones. Yet, those are individual choices as well and we are "impinging" there just the same.

    Nothing personal there, but I find this incoherent, if not hypocrit. My position comes from the belief that all should be treated equally for a similar issue.
    If we are not to campaign agaist obesity, then we should simply not campaign against any other social problem. Which is wrong in my opinion.

    But I totally agree to disagree.

    PS: I perfectly understood what you meant about the slippery slope. I just find that risk minimal compared to the benefits of campaigning.

  96. For the record I am against stigmatising the other things you list also : )

  97. The state owns our bodies--that is the inevitable outcome, the iron logic, of national health care and one of the main reasons I'm a Tea Partier. How does this apply to this discussion?

    If everyone is forced by law to fund one gigantic health-care system, then the Montrealizers of the world are quite willing to boss the rest of us around and the financial demands of the system will enable it.

    I don't want the people who spray-painted the offending graffiti to have the ability to force me to ride a bike or eat what they want me to eat, and how much. They have the will for this, and all they lack, for now, is the power.

    As long as we have the option of joining or leaving different groups, whether they be condo associations or insurance companies, human freedom endures and we make individual tradeoffs between costs and benefits.

    Once the government steps in, there is nowhere left to flee.

    In countries where socialized medicine and the like are more prevalent, they're already looking at this in steps. For example, with "obesity taxes," in Denmark's case with the possibility of adding a 2.3% tax to foods with disapproved levels of saturated fat, including cheese and meat. Even though the way *I* have been able to control my weight, practically with the flip of a switch, is by eating low-carb foods like cheese and meats practically every day.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg. Virtually any human activity can be construed as affecting the "community." The destination for this kind of thinking is summed up in the word "totalitarian." Getting there from where Montrealize is starting out isn't a slippery slope, it's an expressway.

  98. @ Christopher

    "Getting there from where Montrealize is starting out isn't a slippery slope, it's an expressway."

    Your post has to be one of the funniest I have read in a long thime. When Canada becomes a totalitarian country, I'll make sure I apply for asylum in your (healthcare)free wonderful country.

    @ Velouria

    "For the record I am against stigmatising the other things you list also : )"

    I suspected so! :)

    BTW, there are ways to campaign that don't stigmatise.
    I live in the gay village where HIV issues are very important. Campaigns have saved this community IMO and now, they are done ways that do not put anyone off, moralise, stereotype nor wag fingers. And they are effective.

    It is feasible. It is not fair that this useful tool gets discarded because of a few stencils.

  99. When fat is outlawed, only outlaws will have fat.

  100. It doesn't seem fair to shut down a discussion by saying it can't be dealt with in your comment section when it was raised by your blog in the first place. I thought that commenting back and forth was the whole point. I know I don't have to moderate the sometimes heated comments but people are simply responding to your initial post and although they have strayed at times, the discussion is still related to campaigning for cycling or health through anti-fat slogans. I guess you are a victim of your own success.

  101. I haven't shut down the discussion, the comments are being published as you can see. The issue Montrealize raised (i.e. the healthcare debate at large) is larger than I am able to adequately address here, so I bowed out.

  102. Fair enough. I don't want to engage in an endless discussion about ending and endless discussion about something that davidrestes commented on better than I could. Have a good night.

  103. @ Peter

    I agree it is not fair, especially that this time we stuck to the topic and I watched my words (hey how's that).
    But it is true this is really not the place for such debates. As long as it is only "agree/don't agree" or "good/bad" or "my experience is" comments, you can keep the whole thing under control.

    As soon as someone throws politics into it, i.e. socialism (me) vs. libertarian (Corey), social responsibility (me) vs. personal sovereignty (Velouria) etc., then the discussion can get out of hand, and it is boring for the others. And the issue would still not be solved. So, better to develop these ideas with good chums around a hot chocolate...

  104. @Christopher - I think your understanding of the world is untethered from reality. Can you point to state in Europe, where they all have universal health care, that is also totalitarian? Many of them have had universal health care for a darn long time; in Germany, I think it dates back to before WW1. Some were previously run by fascists (Spain, Italy, Germany) yet now they are not, but they have universal health care now. It is almost as if these two things were utterly independent, except in your mind. And yes, I know, you can PROVE that you are right using THEORIES that you have learned, but surely you have heard the jokes about theory and practice. Or perhaps you are using some other definition of the words "totalitarian" and "fascist". I'm a traditionalist; fascist is people like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco.

    I'm not gung-ho on fat taxes, because in some cases such laws are based on mistaken information, and I don't know if we have heard the final word on fat. Here in the land of the allegedly free, however, we have similar laws, so let's not pretend that we're so different. Marijuana's illegal, even though it is harmless. Welfare recipients in Florida are required to undergo drug testing, just because enough people running the state thought it would be a great idea. That's pretty dad-gum intrusive, don't you think? And in other cases, we have known-harmful stuff that is still legal, like partially hydrogenated oils ("trans-fats", though these two things only mostly overlap). These are banned in Canada and Denmark ("banned", meaning that only a small amount is allowed. Some trans-fats are natural). For me, the lack of a ban reduces my choices, because if I buy prepared food (especially desserts), I don't know if it is transfat free or not. So I don't.

    The specific case of Denmark is interesting. One of the reasons that they are looking into a fat tax is because their expected life span is anomalously low for Europe, and so they are trying to do something about it. What's also interesting is that our expected lifespan is the same as theirs (i.e., low, by European standards) and a whole lot of us seem to think that is just fine.

  105. Wow! I think some of the contributions border being puerile - calling others stupid and dumb and boasting about achievements. Sometimes ignoring the comments that upset you is prob best - Thanks Velouria for keeping things in check.
    I can't say however that I saw or read into the artwork as you did Velouria until I read your post. Like Dottie, before I began commuting I saw my co-workers who commuted or were "avid cyclists" as "happy" granola eating people who were supporters of renewable energy. After reading it however, I somewhat agree. The bike with - "This runs on fat and saves you money" on it's own would have conveyed the message I'm sure the artist intended without leaving any room for the insinuation of fat v skinny. The artist may not have intended for it to be interpreted that way but we have all come up with our own interpretation. It's like interpreting an ad that encourages a change in diet to achieve weightloss as being insulting to fat people. Is it not true that changing your diet will aid weightloss? Is it not true that cycling more will increase fitness levels and save you some money? It has to be advertised to achieve a goal, but I suppose it is the way it is said. The bike on it's own with the tagline would have done the job I say.
    Commuter - "gone with the wind".

  106. I'm over weight and I'm not offended at all by this saying. In fact I like it and want to get a bumper sticker for my bike (well I have a bike trailer for my daughter that it'd fit onto). There have been times I was riding my bike and people in cars have made fun of me for being over weight. I'm riding more to help me lose weight and save money.

  107. I'm sold as I need to shed a few kilos!


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