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).

When will people stop thinking I’m nuts?

I’m pretty convinced that the best way to do something about the climate crisis is to talk about it. Bring it up. Plant a seed. Make people question everything. So I try to bring it up in YouTube comments, or Facebook groups, or Twitter. Even in person back when I used to talk to actual people who aren’t my family. But there are a couple of big drawbacks to this tactic.

The main one being that everyone thinks you’re nuts. I’m pretty sure Chris Packham thinks I’m nuts for posting about how dire the climate situation is on his Facebook page. I’m even more sure that Geoff Marshall is convinced I’m a lunatic since all my comments on his YouTube channel are about our existential crisis. I can’t just enjoy the videos about old trains without making it about human survival on this planet.

I’m always there to crash the party with a comment sure to depress (and sometimes actively piss off) people who just want to have a laugh at a silly video. They’re not interested in the end of the world. Why can’t I leave them alone and keep my doom and gloom to myself?

The other problem is it brings you down to Earth with a thud whenever you talk to regular people about these things. It makes you realise how far away we are from action. In our little climate semi-doomer echo chamber (which is a tiny niche within a niche), we’re talking about big ideas to save life on Earth, and we’re making changes to our lives that make us feel like we’re making a difference, even though we’re not really. And then you realise that everyone else is about 10 steps behind. It’s especially bad face to face. They talk to me about how they do their recycling, so they’re doing their part. They’re driving a hybrid car or something to that effect (just kidding – never had anyone driving a hybrid). Something so outdated that it makes me feel like giving up then and there.

But perhaps the worst thing is online when people completely ignore your comment. I’d honestly prefer someone reply to me and tell me ten reasons why I’m supposedly wrong, how nuclear power is the future, that biofuels can enable us to keep consuming as we are indefinitely, than have them completely ignore me. Sometimes I’ll go back the next day to a comment I wrote that I felt was well written, easy to comprehend and fact-filled; and I’ll find it the only one that hasn’t had a single like or reply. It’s so demoralising. I’m telling the truth, but because everyone has accepted the bullshit idea that we have 30 years to cut emissions to zero, they just give me the digital equivalent of a blank stare. And like with all the other things about society that depress me, it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon either.

It really is pretty amazing how 40 or so years of neoliberalism has created a scenario where people who speak the truth are treated as if they’re nutcases. When you look back to before Reagan and Thatcher, everything was so truthful. Especially if you go back before World War 2. Science and facts were respected. People cared about what was true and morally right.

I know that in the end I’ll be proven right, but I don’t know if that will be able to make up for years of being treated like a weirdo when I’m just trying to inform people about what’s happening to our world. The scientists are generally pretty awful at getting the message out there, and people like Guy McPherson have effectively been de-platformed. So it makes sense for as many of us as possible to step in and spread the word on their behalf. I don’t even know if I’ve convinced anyone though. If I did plant a seed in someone’s mind and that one person later realised I was right and is now spreading the message further, then it would all be worth it. But I honestly don’t know if I have. I wish there was a way I could find out.

It feels like it’s not just me being ignored and treated as a crazy person though. It feels like anyone under 40 doesn’t matter. Who cares what we say? We’re nuts according to the establishment in this country. You want to have a fully funded healthcare system? Nuts. You want to get rid of the royal family? Preposterous. You want to change the economic system so humans can have a future on this planet? Ok that’s it. Out! Get out! Crazy kids.

When is it all going to flip on it’s head? When are they going to become the crazy ones? I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days.

Everything we’re doing now will have to be undone

Look at pretty much any part of society right now, and you’ll notice that it’s still going in the opposite direction of how we need to be going to have any kind of sustainable future. Housing, energy, roads, airports, (lack of) bike infrastructure, railways, politics. You name it, we’re going backwards in it.

These are all massive aspects in a society, and mistakes (to be polite) that can’t be quickly remedied. This is problematic when we’re in a rapidly accelerating climate emergency; and it’s why we need to get over the sunk cost fallacy and pull the plug on these projects before it’s too late.

It takes a long time to build nuclear power plants, or high speed rail, or millions of homes that are too big, unsustainably built and car-dependant. And then when you’re finished destroying our precious remaining “wild areas” building them, we’re left with an undesirable outcome that will take even more time and effort to fix, if it’s even possible. In some cases it won’t be.

I’ve laid out my plan of emergency measures to immediately implement, but before we can do that, we have to cut off all of these projects that are going in the opposite direction. We CAN just stop these things halfway through. You don’t have to complete these insane projects just because you’ve spent a lot of money already. Watch the mainstream media and you’ll be told that rapid change is just not possible. It’s not possible politically, socially, in terms of our infrastructure, our energy mix. But it’s not remotely true. We have to admit that everything we’re doing is wrong. The system which economists and mainstream media tell us is fantastic, is anything but. It’s pure lunacy.

It’s like an alcoholic going to an AA meeting and admitting their problem. You can’t tackle alcoholism unless you admit it first. The same applies to the global economic system. We’re addicted to this economic system, even though it makes the vast majority of us stressed and unhappy. This system of endless growth taught us that we can all have everything we could ever want; all the mega-projects you could imagine, and there would never be any environmental or social consequences for any of it. The rich could get ever richer and the poor could get ever poorer, and that’s ok. Not only that, but the thought of taking some of the rich people’s money and giving it to the poor, or to make society better for everyone is considered unthinkable in this society. It amazes me that we’ve got to this point, and it feels like just a relative handful of us even notice.

Imagine if in the NBA Draft, the championship winning team got the first pick every year. That’s what this global economic system is.

And when it comes to what we are supposedly doing about the climate crisis within this system, the main thing is lying to ourselves. Recently I got to the point where I was starting to find it funny to see the stupidity of people talking about green growth, EVs, renewable energy, as well as the ridiculous people still talking about new fossil fuels in the North Sea for example. But on Earth Day I felt really pissed off again, specifically by Joe Biden making his token environmental speech seemingly once a year to say how seriously he’s taking it, and how he’s going to count old trees and then somehow protect them.

We have to wake up now. And the first stage of that is to end the bullshit multi-decade mega-projects which are so symbolic of this ridiculous system we’re forced to live under. Only then can we think about what we need to do here and now. Once we’ve stopped speeding in the wrong direction, and we’re living in the present, we can think about what comes next. Because right now, change feels impossible when all you hear is politicians and the BBC talking about what capitalism already has set in stone for 20 years from now. It doesn’t matter what’s happening to the climate, until the penny finally drops, whenever that’s going to be. They do it on purpose. To entrench neoliberal capitalism as far into the future as they can. Make it so that the general public can’t see any alternative. It’s worked for them. It’s why covid is still going on. People feel like no matter what, they must go to work to earn enough money to just about stay in the black, if they’re lucky. They have no time to stop and think about why they’re doing it. Even having months at home during the original lockdown was not enough to shift people’s mindsets in most cases. They still feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses and buy that new SUV, and that bigger house. And they justify it to themselves because the media tell them about those car factory and construction jobs that are so crucial to GDP.

We have to leave behind long term mega-projects for short term profits, and embrace short term action for long term survivability of our species and the rest of life on Earth. Otherwise we’ve had it. Every day is crucial at this point, and we’re wasting one after another talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Prince Harry and the Queen. Will Smith and Chris Rock. Do we really want to lose everything while being distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter in the slightest?

It feels like we’re heading for extinction

Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, the Metaverse, right wing authoritarian governments, unending talk about GDP growth, and a global population seemingly getting stupider and more unhinged by the day. Even if we can reverse course from here to create a better future; you can’t deny that what we’re seeing right now looks like the demise of the human race.

It seems like everywhere you look, you’ll struggle to find anyone speaking much common sense about Covid-19, about ending pollution, about making a fair society. It’s a massive shock when you do hear someone speaking logically. I feel like I must follow them on Twitter. There aren’t that many of us now so we have to band together. That’s perhaps overstating it a bit, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s how it goes considering the trajectory we’re on.

The thing I don’t understand is that not only are we not making a dent into the environmental and societal crises we have chosen to get ourselves into, but we’re actively going backwards in almost every respect. Things like NFTs are so bonkers that it’s hard to even comprehend. People pay huge amounts of money to “own” a picture or video of a real item, when those things are both widely available online for everyone. There’s no value whatsoever in these things, and it uses giant quantities of electricity to complete transactions. It makes absolutely no sense.

And then there’s the Metaverse. It’s basically a VR world where people can meet and have avatars, virtual homes and possessions etc. It’s like Cybertown meets Second Life, PlayStation Home and presumably countless other similar ideas, except with VR headsets and higher resolution virtual homes and furniture.

It feels like Mark Zuckerberg is reaching his ultimate form. People have always talked about how nefarious he might be or at the very least mocked his awkward nature. But now it really feels like he’s embracing it by going with the Meta brand and Metaverse concept; even if it’ll most likely be about as successful as 3D TV.

When I think about it, I just imagine the scene in the film Wall-E where the obese people on the space ship are sitting there in VR. Why would anyone want something like that? I can see some good uses for VR, but the particular desire to have a whole separate existence just seems unnecessary and dystopian. We need to stop this madness and just focus on what VR is actually good at. Allowing us to do and experience things that we can’t in real life, not trying to replace real life.

We have to focus as much as possible on our real world in order to want to save it. Video Games are one thing, which in moderation are great. The Metaverse is something totally different, that I have a hard time believing has anything beneficial to offer society. It’s the type of thing you create when you’re out of ideas for things that really help society. When Facebook started, you could make a pretty good case that it made a positive impact on society. Who can say that now? How many of us still use FB as it was originally intended? To keep up with friends and make communities around common interests? I do, but it mostly seems to be just a breeding ground for far-right views and misinformation. Even though I do use it for a couple of good reasons, I wouldn’t miss it if it was gone, and I doubt many others would either. And that just shows how badly it’s been developed over the years.

But it’s not just these particular dystopian trends. It’s everything in society that needs to change. We need to immediately stop all of this nonsense and reverse course before we set off all of the cascading feedback loops in the climate system.

I really don’t know how, but all these products and concepts have to end, and soon. We have to start thinking about what really matters to us. Is it the ridiculous gadgets and gimmicky services? The endless pursuit of economic growth when we all feel miserable? Or is it the wonder of nature, the simple pleasure of a bike ride, relaxing and enjoying the slow life? If we’re going to avoid extinction, it’s crucial that we stop this trend of doing the worst possible things at the worst possible time. We need to wake up fast and reassess everything we’re doing, because the vast majority of it is the opposite of what we should be doing.