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The Bike as a Symbol of Freedom

It's no geographic accident that so many of the images emerging from nationwide protests have featured numerous protestors on bikes. These forces have been coalescing for years.
June 15, 2020, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Abolish the Police
Van Q Truong

Recent images of New York Police Department officers focusing brutal tactics on people on bikes during protests in New York are in keeping with a long history of "hostility to cyclists, especially cyclists who are also left-leaning activists," according to an article by Jody Rosen. 

And the cyclist-police nexus of conflict hasn't been unique to New York in recent weeks. "Bicycles have played a starring role in the nationwide uprising that has followed George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers two weeks ago," writes Rosen. "In Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and dozens of other cities, protesters have pedalled and marched with their bicycles, facing off with police who, in many cases, are also mounted on bikes."

The visibility of bicycles during the recent weeks of protests in support of Black Lives Matter and police reform reflects an ongoing boom in popularity for bikes, according to Rosen, with backing from planners and politicians. "In an ecologically imperiled, rapidly urbanizing, traffic-shackled twenty-first century, the zero-emissions two-wheeler has reëmerged as a darling of urbanists, policymakers, and commuters." 

Since the growing popularity of bikes has only accelerated, rapidly, during the pandemic, and now, with these protests and the response implemented by police departments and the Trump administration alike, the bike is emerging as a much more prominent symbol of freedom and social justice, according to the article. As Rosen notes, however, the bike as an emblem of freedom and justice is easily manipulated and appropriated by the other side.

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Published on Monday, June 15, 2020 in The New Yorker
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