Sunday, May 11, 2014

“Invisible Riders,” a Timeless Article

Every so often we are fortunate enough to discover a piece of writing that becomes part of us, that continues to contribute to our view of the world. An article originally published back in 2005 in Bicycling Magazine called “Invisible Riders” is one such gem for me. I still draw inspiration and perspective from it as I work to overcome misconceptions about people who depend on their bike every day.

The article is a surprise, not only because it was the first and last of its kind to be published in a bicycle-enthusiasts’ magazine (that I know of...please send links to others if I’m wrong!), but because the author himself had set out to write a completely different article. His subjects for the article are day laborers in Los Angeles, California. Most are illegal immigrants from Mexico and were a bit nervous about taking part.

Most fascinating to me is not what the bicyclists told the reporter, but how the reporter changed as he wrote the article. Before he started, he envisioned an article about changing some of these riders into bike racers and enthusiasts. What he ended up writing was far more profound to him and his readers. We often do not even see these, the most prevalent sort of bicyclists in our cities, and because of this, transportation policies, bike shops, and even bicycle programs often don’t even consider accommodating their needs.

When I taught a university course on social change through bicycles, I made this article one of the required reading assignments. It always caused lively discussions with my students. Some even referred to it well after the course was over as we discussed their plans with bicycles for the future. It truly is a timeless piece and I’m glad to bring it back through this blog post.

Give the article a read. It’s only five pages long. My guess is that you will be as captivated by the reporter’s personal story as I continue to be.

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