March 25, 1995
Alfred Zimmermann, Executive Director
Velo-City Conference '95, Basel
Re: My Paper (see abstract attached)
I was very sorry to hear that you decided not to accept my paper for your conference, particularly since it addresses one of the most serious issues facing bicyclists worldwide: how to prevent the bicycle technology from being used to harm, rather than enhance, the environment. As far as I know, I am the only person in the world presenting this issue in its most serious aspect -- not as a trivial conflict between mountain bikers and other trail users, but as the latest manifestation of man's threat to wildlife. I am the first and best spokesman for this point of view.
Mountain bicyclists are giving bicycling and bicyclists a bad reputation, and are thereby hurting our more important cause -- ending the dominance of the automobile in our society. They are creating an image of bicyclists as selfish people who don't care how they affect the people and wildlife around them (exactly like the first motorists!).
This problem won't disappear, simply by pretending that it doesn't exist. By shrinking from facing it head on, you are trivializing your conference. Either you are trying to avoid controversy, which will make the conference much less valuable than it could be as an international forum, or you are responding to pressure from mountain bikers, who have attempted to prevent these ideas from being heard, in every forum where the issue has come up. In either case, you do the cause of bicycling no good, and you lose the respect of the responsible bikers who don't want this issue swept under the rug.
I hope that you will reconsider your decision, and allow these crucial issues to be aired in the conference. I would prefer to speak alone, rather than in a debate format, because that would create a scientific, rather than histrionic, atmosphere. If I am not allowed to speak, I will probably not attend the conference. A "poster session" would not provide the prominence that this important issue deserves.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
Appropriate and Inappropriate Use of Bicycles:
Mountain Biking versus Wildlife
Humans believe that they own, and have a right to dominate, every square inch of the Earth. The consequence is that wildlife species are being driven to extinction at an enormous rate, comparable to that of any of the greatest mass extinctions in the Earth's history. This process threatens our enjoyment of life, the availability of foods, medicines, and other useful chemicals, and even our survival as a species. Bicyclists, like everyone else, must choose whether they want to continue this ancient, human-centered tradition, or help create a new biocentric ethic that cherishes and protects biodiversity. In our righteous enthusiasm for the bicycle, let's not forget that it is a machine, and that it can do harm as well as good. Let's use the bicycle to replace motor vehicles, not to expand man's already excessive reach into wildlife habitat!