Be wary of car brands infiltrating the bike industry

So far, just an overpriced standard EMTB. But be wary of speed restrictions.

Car companies. They’re the bad guys who eliminated urban cycling in the UK and elsewhere. They brought us the joy that is one giant SUV after another on our narrow roads; originally built for bicycles, narrow vans and the odd truck. Now they want into the e-bike industry as well. Haven’t they done enough damage?

To be fair to them, there are a couple of potential benefits they can bring to the cycling industry. But before I get to that, I want to run through the obvious downsides.

High tech solutions to questions no-one asked

They’ll try to advocate for cars and bikes coexisting without infrastructure, and push overly complicated technology for bikes and cars to talk to each other. Just as momentum starts to build for bans on private cars in urban areas, they’d love to set us back and seduce neoliberal lawmakers (who eat this kind of stuff up) with plans to make cars and bikes work together by leveraging new technology. Why do the obvious thing of getting rid of the cars and having all that glorious space and clean air, when we can have cars and bikes that talk to each other and traffic lights to avoid collisions? It’s not as if we could use our eyes and ears to see bikes and pedestrians coming or anything.

Speed

They’ll try to increase speeds in e-bike regulations from 25kph to make them more like small motorcycles. This is a big one. Car companies are supposedly about speed and efficiency, so of course they won’t be able to resist lobbying their mates in power for higher e-bike speeds; and they may well think why not get rid of the pedals too while we’re at it? Never mind that you get stuck in traffic and passed by people on bikes gliding along to their destinations before you.

Greenwashing

They’ll try to use cycling to greenwash their businesses so they can phase out fossil cars or privately owned EVs later. Clearly, the car industry loves a bit of greenwashing. Manufacturers often promote hybrids while giving the impression that they’re better than EVs because you don’t have to plug them in. Just ignore the fact that you still have to fill them with explosive fossil juice. Or they make a car that powers the wheels like an EV, except the only way to charge it is with a tank of petrol. Seriously. Nissan calls that e-Power.

Presumably the next logical step would be to distract people with some e-bikes to make you look really green. But of course if you want to travel further than e-bike range, you’ll still want that aforementioned giant fossil powered SUV. Ok, maybe I’ll be charitable and say it’s a hybrid by 2025 when the world’s melting.

Survival

As a desperation move, I could imagine a car company or two buying a bike company and rebranding it in a last ditch effort to turn around their flagging fortunes when private car sales drop off a cliff. Or, alternatively, I could see it in the case of a manufacturer that gets caught particularly flat-footed during the EV transition. A rapid pivot to Micromobility might be the only play left to save the company.

The Positive(s)?

I did promise some positives, so here they are. Or here’s one anyway. All I could come up with. The car industry will bring a new perspective and prioritise vehicle grade components that last for urban journeys. Especially for cargo bikes, trikes and quads. But, the thing is that you can get a new perspective without resorting to embracing the car industry. Almost anyone from any industry can come in with a fresh vision of what bikes should be (anything without a derailleur would be a start). It’s not worth the risk of the automotive sector wrecking the bike industry. And I’m not saying that as someone who thinks much of the bike business. I’m very much of the opinion that it requires a massive shake up.

So… I guess that makes zero positives actually…

Before I write them off entirely, I should mention that this is assuming the current neoliberal system stays as it is. The system which of course will kill us all in due course if it does. However, if / when we do nationalise the car industry under a new economic system, it becomes a whole new ball game. You would have the engineering expertise of the auto industry but without the profit motive. In that case, you could repurpose their vast factories to make cargo bikes at record pace, and you wouldn’t have to worry about them lobbying for turning e-bikes into small motorcycles, since there would be no one left to lobby. The government (and the people) would be running the show.

So technically there was one positive in the end; but it probably won’t be a possibility any time soon when you look at the state of our politics. For example, Penny Mordaunt says she will cut fuel tax in half if she becomes PM (sigh).

Yes, we really must ban private cars

Logically, every day that goes by where we do practically nothing to address our climate crisis, the more reasonable the idea of banning private cars (especially in urban areas) should become. But in reality, it doesn’t feel as if we’re making any progress in this regard. People generally aren’t warming to the idea, or at most are warming to it at a snail’s pace.

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera a lot recently. They seem to be the best of a bad bunch when it comes to international media outlets regarding the climate crisis; especially when it comes to climate related suffering in the Middle East and the general global south. They still talk about GDP and economic growth being a good thing. They talk about F1 and World Rally straight after stories of record droughts, sandstorms, famines and so on. But at least they always highlight inequality, human rights under threat, and other uncomfortable issues that other outlets shy away from.

They’re extremely good at documenting the dire state of our climate. But when it comes to solutions, it’s a very different story. I don’t really see much about solutions, and I see very little possibility of them suggesting anything other than mainstream favourites like renewable energy and electric vehicles. At least not in the near future. So if the best mainstream media outlet isn’t informing people about the real solutions, then what chance do we have of change?

You might be thinking something along the lines of “yeah, but that’s mainstream media. What about social media and YouTube in particular?” Well, I do agree that YouTube is where the progressive ideas are going to come from. But in my experience, progressive news and climate related channels are still pretty small when you consider where we are in the crisis with seemingly endless weather extremes every day. And when I comment on these channels about a private car ban, I don’t see a lot of positive feedback. I’m more likely to attract either a troll or someone who’s supposedly on my side but who can’t imagine life in urban areas without cars. By now, it shouldn’t be controversial to end the plague of cars in our urban areas, but it is. It’s extremely controversial; even in places which could easily be cycled by unfit people if most of the cars were gone.

We all saw that non-cyclists were riding bikes during the original spring 2020 lockdown. But it didn’t lead to permanent change because the establishment didn’t want it to. I’ve talked about this a lot. Some cities and countries did use it as an opportunity to change a little bit; but no one had the bravery to go the whole way and severely limit private car use. Even when it’s clearly the fastest and cheapest way to get people cycling and to slash emissions from the transport sector.

So what happens next? My best guess is that nothing will happen until maybe later this year. The coming summer heat records combined with food supply issues and energy prices going into the winter could cause a societal tipping point around the world. But it will need to be an apocalyptic blend to make humanity wake up and start doing things that make sense (like banning private cars). The crises we’ve accumulated so far have not been enough, despite being pretty terrible. The climate crisis, the war, covid, cost of living, monkeypox, avian flu etc.

While we are seeing the status quo starting to struggle, we’re not yet at the point where people begin questioning everything en masse. But this is only going one way. The resurgence of unions and the disabling of a large percentage of the global workforce with long covid show that the current exploitative system can’t keep going for much longer. The question is how much longer; and if we will still have time to act once it does fail. One thing is for sure; it won’t be any form of media that changes the course of humanity. I just don’t see any progressive outlet growing fast enough to even challenge mainstream media’s viewership before our various crises start dictating society’s direction.

Why traditional Civil Disobedience is the wrong approach in the climate fight

When you think of direct action on the climate crisis, you would probably first think of Extinction Rebellion protestors blocking London bridges; or some other big disruptive protest in which people get dragged off by police, and the mainstream media talk about how terrible it is that people were slightly delayed in getting to work. I’m not against large, peaceful protest, but I don’t think traditional civil disobedience is the most effective way of putting pressure on governments. The tiny benefit isn’t worth getting arrested for.

The most effective method of pressurising governments and businesses in my opinion is the mass refusal to participate in the endless growth based economic system. This can take the form of working less hours or not at all, not buying things we don’t need, as well as more targeted boycotts of certain products or services. And you don’t have to get thrown in a police cell for your troubles either.

One of the easiest and most crucial things we can all do right now is moving our money out of financial institutions that support the fossil fuel status quo. This can be complicated when it comes to pensions. But for bank accounts, it’s easy to switch to a more ethical bank; and there are automated tools which transfer your scheduled payments across as well. You’ll still have to change any accounts that use your debit card manually, but it’s no different than when your card expires and you get a new one. It’s no great hardship, and very much worth the effort.

Another hugely important element of the strategy of deliberately tanking the economy is housing. In many cultures, it is normal to live in multi-generational households for your whole life. I’m not necessarily suggesting that; but certainly in the western world, people are often a bit too keen to move out of home very young, and parents have been told that this is a good idea over many decades. I think it’s unnatural to want to separate ourselves from our families so young, and we should take the opportunity to live together for as long as families enjoy it. Obviously it’s not going to suit everyone for various reasons. But if you get on well, it’s definitely a very effective method of doing the opposite of what the system wants you to do.

This is also one area where boomers can have an outsized influence in the climate fight. They tend to have the money to be able to support their kids and grandkids to be full-time activists. Everyone who is able to not work while also spending as little as possible is hugely important. Imagine if everyone who was able to do it did so. The economy would be in ruins (as far as the elites are concerned anyway), and the government would be forced to change tack (or just get annihilated in the next election).

Interestingly, the effect seems to be happening already thanks to our incompetent and uncaring government. The latest jobs data in the UK shows that there are more job vacancies than people actively looking for work. The suggestion by experts and the media is that this is entirely due to hundreds of thousands of Brits being (possibly) permanently incapacitated by Long Covid, which the government allowed to happen through their intentionally useless handling of the pandemic; from the beginning really, but particularly the last 10 months since “Freedom Day” in July 2021.

Clearly I don’t want to tank the economy by people being unable to work. I want it to be a choice, but it really demonstrates that we will get there by hook or by crook. This government is so cruel and at the same time so stupid that they can’t even do economic growth right. Having said that, I don’t think that it is entirely down to Long Covid. There must be quite a few people like me who refused to go back to work during covid and subsequently checked out of the economy; and those numbers will keep increasing. Especially now with the cost of living crisis that the government of course chooses not to solve. I can imagine young people renting flats giving up on that to return home, and possibly cutting back their work hours too, if not quitting entirely. Why work your arse off in a system when you never get rewarded for it anyway?

To sum up, I fully support all climate protests, but we need to get smart and use the establishment’s precious economy against them. And you can see that it’s going to work. Even just this “worrying” jobs report has the government and terrified, and that’s of their own making. It wouldn’t take much concerted action at all for them to feel more pressure than they’ve ever felt from every climate march or protest in history, combined. They don’t care if you go and protest, as long as you still drive a car and go flying off on holiday. If we refuse to work and stop spending money, they will be panicking almost immediately; along with the bankers, investors and economists. We all saw what a house of cards neoliberal capitalism is during the first covid lockdowns. It won’t take much for it to all come crashing down, to be replaced by something that actually works for all of us, and the rest of life on Earth.

Zero Covid works

Zero Covid works

A couple of days ago, the WHO called out China for their Zero Covid strategy that is causing such huge societal problems in Shanghai, and to some extent Beijing. But what is Zero Covid? The Zero Covid strategy is….. fighting the pandemic. That’s it. Remember at the beginning of the pandemic in the UK and around the world. We had full lockdowns, we had 30 minutes of outdoor exercise time per day, we wore masks everywhere, and it was wildly successful in reducing cases and deaths. Far more successful than anything we’ve done since the vaccines came along.

Zero Covid in Shanghai has not been as effective this time, but you have to imagine that frustration at being the only country still taking Covid seriously with these kinds of measures is playing a big role. Western governments have inflicted their stupidity on the Chinese people, and are trying to use the anger of the locked down citizens to pressure the Chinese government into dropping Zero Covid and letting the virus run free, with devastating consequences. And the western media are eating it up. Even the WHO have now been brainwashed into advocating for ending covid measures and putting endless economic growth above public health.

One of the big talking points in western news is that China isn’t vaccinated properly. Their own vaccine isn’t as effective as the western vaccines, and a lot of the population hasn’t been vaccinated at all. But, funnily enough, they tend not to mention that China has been more successful in suppressing the virus and protecting its citizens (and the economy) than the rest of the world has been with highly effective vaccines. Practically everywhere outside of China, countries have brought in vaccines and then given up on other measures, and it hasn’t worked. But rather than accepting their mistake, they’re hell bent on forcing China to go down the same path.

I really hope China continues to resist the pressure and stick with Zero Covid, because it’s clearly the best strategy for both public health and the economy (not that I care about protecting this economy). I think they will, but the western media will not give in either. In the west, we’re so stupid now that the only evidence that could maybe prove to people that Zero Covid works would be for them to drop it and then see the resulting massive wave of cases, long covid and deaths. It’s never enough to show what would or could happen based on what we know. People need to see the disaster before they believe it.

The only thing I would change would be to allow people who haven’t tested positive that crucial 30 minutes or so of outdoor exercise time per day no matter where they’re located. To not allow people to leave home at all is what’s really made this situation newsworthy, and given ammunition to the western governments who only care about the health of the destructive fossil fuelled economy.