August 8, 1993
League of American Wheelmen [sic]
190 W. Ostend Street, Suite 120
Baltimore, MD 21230-3731
Re: Your Brochure, "Join the National Organization of Bicyclists"
I found your leaflet extremely offensive. No wonder, that after 100+ years of effort, bicycling still accounts for only 5% (or substitute any other 1-digit number you prefer) of all travel, rather than 95%, as it should be!
By that title, do you mean to imply that LAW is the only national organization of bicyclists? By your name, do you mean to imply that it is primarily a men's organization? Judging from the photos, your name should be League of WASP Bicyclists. How is it possible, in 1993, for there still to exist such a sexist, racist (even if unintentional) advertisement?
But these are the least of my concerns. The front page says you teach "Ways to Cycle Effectively". How could anyone who claims to like bicycling make such a stupid statement? You apparently assume that people bicycle simply in order accomplish some task -- that they are goal-oriented. Do you also believe in Effective Dancing? How about Effective Eating? What about Effective Love-making? Effective Birdwatching? Would you like to take a class in Effective Killing? How about Effective Dying? Why do you want to reduce one of the supreme pleasures of life to the level of just doing a job? Would you join an organization that promises to teach you Effective Living?
Believe it or not, these are minor quibbles, compared to my primary concern. Four out of eight of the photos show bicycles apparently off of any road or trail. One shows someone actually riding off-trail. Do you advocate bicycling in such areas? Apparently you do. Although bicycles are obviously less destructive than cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the difference is only a matter of degree. The principle is the same, the motives are the same, and the effect is, ultimately, the same. It may take longer to trash the wilderness by means of bicycles, but it can easily be done, and is being done.
Although I love bicycles and bicycling, I don't believe that bicycling takes precedence over all other human values! In particular, since wildlife cannot protect itself from humans, and because we are losing entire species at an enormous rate, due mostly to human encroachment on and destruction of wildlife habitat, I believe we need to rapidly begin designating areas for wildlife that are off-limits to humans! Wildlife preserves, all connected by wildlife corridors, need to be created all over the world, including in urban areas! (Urban areas, being attractive to humans as habitat, were usually equally attractive, for the same reasons, to wildlife.)
I would love to join a big bicycling organization. But I want to join one that recognizes its responsibility to the world community -- that is open, responsive, and respectful to all people and all forms of life (and that will not be satisfied until it has 95%, rather than 5% of the "market").
Please print my letter, uncut, in your publication, "Bicycle USA", and any other publication that reaches all your members.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.