The Real Solution to Cycling’s “White Bro” Problem
Want to de-bro cycling? Build more and better bike lanes.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
The United States is one of the most sophisticated and technologically advanced societies the world has ever known. But there are still certain areas in which we’re perfectly fine with unmitigated crazy talk, and one such topic is bikes. Desperate newspaper columnists know this, which is why they regularly troll cyclists with rabid anti-bike columns to drum up clicks.
Need some small change? Go rummaging around under the sofa cushions. Need a few more page views? Write a screed about how those damn bikers should be licensed and insured and just watch the indignant comments roll in.
Here in New York City, we’ve got this guy named Steve Cuozzo who writes for the Post. Ostensibly he’s a restaurant reviewer, but in a post-Bourdainian age of unprecedented access to highly astute and insightful culinary content—everything from foodie blogs to David Chang on Netflix—nobody wants to read some baby boomer in a fedora rant about how he doesn’t understand food trucks. So, periodically, he gets desperate, tears the couch apart for nickels and dimes, and rants about bikes. Past examples include: “Strangled by Bikes,” “Bike Lanes, Bike Lies,” and, of course, the highly erudite “If You Ride a Bike, You Suck!”
Alas, despite Cuozzo’s best efforts, cycling in New York City continues to flourish and the bike network continues to expand. To his credit, he could have continued along the same tack by writing a column called “If You Ride a Bike I Hope You Get Run Over by a Steamroller and Die,” or even “Cyclists Should All Choke to Death on the Stench of Their Own Chamois.” But even the Cuozz understands that courting his crotchety peers is like investing in VHS technology, so instead, he recently sought a millennial audience by invoking everyone’s favorite villain: The entitled white bro.
In his latest work, “NYC Should Stop Coddling Young White Bros on Bikes,” Cuozzo goes full “How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?” by attempting to make the case that protected bike lanes are both sexist and racist:
Cycling isn’t just a guy thing—it’s a white guy thing. Despite lack of data, anyone can see that in a city that’s 55 percent nonwhite, black, Latin and Asian faces on wheels are relatively scarce. (The exception is hard-working food delivery people, for whom access to bike lanes makes their backbreaking jobs somewhat less risky while ensuring that more affluent citizens won’t have to wait too long to get their General Tso’s chicken.)
The idea that “black, Latin, and Asian faces on wheels are relatively scarce” is laughably absurd, but the tip of the fedora to delivery workers is an especially amusing bit of pandering, considering he traditionally mocks and dehumanizes them.
Continuing on the entitled-cyclist theme, Cuozzo also tacks on ageism and ableism because, well, why not?
It’s also an able-bodied young white guys’ thing. Many cyclists look more suited to running the New York Marathon than to merely getting from Point A to Point B. Meanwhile, subway riders with every imaginable disability brave jammed platforms, stairs and trains. Legless men hop from car to car.
Though at no point does he explain how, exactly, legless men hop.
Of course, even the zaniest ideas have their basis in what might seem to be (at least to the lazy-brained) common sense. Flat-earthers claim the planet is a great big pancake, and, hey, if you’re just standing on the corner scratching your ass while staring slack-jawed into the middle distance, then, yeah, this certainly does appear to be the case. Similarly, if, like Steve Cuozzo, you happen to live in a part of New York City that is around 80 percent white and adjacent to a park where lots of people go to ride expensive road bikes, you might mistakenly assume that everyone on a bike is a “Dale Earnhardt of the handlebars.” (He really didn’t need to add the “of the handlebars” qualifier, as the NASCAR driver is way into riding bikes.)
Making sweeping pronouncements about the demographics of New York City cyclists from your rarefied perch on the Upper East Side is like concluding that caviar is America’s most popular condiment because they’re always serving it at your country club. But the rest of us who make our way around the city by bike know Cuozzo’s sweeping generalization about race and bikes doesn’t ring true—nor is it supported by actual data, which shows that black, white, and Latino adults in New York City cycle in similar proportions.
The gender gap in cycling is another issue. I’d sooner take a pill from a stranger than I would numbers from Steve Cuozzo, but he is right that more men cycle than women. This is true in New York City and the United States as a whole. It’s not true, however, in places with lots of bike infrastructure, like the Netherlands, where the rate of cycling is pretty much even between genders. Cuozzo also fails to mention that the gender gap has been narrowing in New York City as the cycling network has become more robust:
Female Ridership Facts: The gap between the number of men and women riding bikes has narrowed since 2001, with a 19% gap reduction between 2001–2008 on Manhattan’s on-street bike lanes. While gender imbalance on two wheels is a national issue, Department of City Planning data show that the number of women riding bikes is increasing faster than male riders.
In fact, by dismissing bike infrastructure as “coddling,” Cuozzo is undermining the very thing that’s de-bro-ing New York City cycling. Then again, it’s not surprising he’s so comfortable making this argument: As a white man born in 1950, Steve Cuozzo is among the most coddled human beings ever to have walked the face of the earth. He’s never had to consider anybody else, so why start now? All of this is why his most recent column reads less like an indictment of cycling and more like the rantings of someone screaming for attention while striding briskly toward irrelevancy.
So here’s a tip of the cycling cap to you, Steve Cuozzo, as you disappear off the edge of the celestial pancake.