Color and Privilege on the Proposed Summit Avenue Regional Trail

It has not escaped my notice that, in community gatherings where I meet the impassioned voices of proponents for plans such as those proposed for the new Summit Avenue Regional Route, those voices are predominantly and overwhelmingly white and male and capable.

It has not escaped my notice that the only attention they have is how they live their lives.

Article continues after ad

Where they probably have jobs they can cycle to, time to do that and the luxury of not having other responsibilities that could stop them from doing this. That they have a place at work to secure their bike, a place to change or maybe even shower. That they only have one job and not two. That they have time to recreate on the weekend or in the evening. That aside from the evils of cars, they don’t have to worry about other threats to their safety. That they probably live lives with such a privilege — where everything is an app-based service — that even the tissue they wipe their saddles with is delivered to their doorstep by someone less fortunate.

Or so, given their statements, they would have you believe.

Article continues after ad

It has not escaped my notice that they do not take into account those who have two jobs, or have children who have to be picked up from one place at a time and go to another at another time so that they can be in third place in time and they barely have time for that. Or those who have lots of places to be for work throughout the day. Or those who work two (or sometimes three) jobs to make ends meet. Or they have to run errands for a family of three, or four, or five or six.

Or people with disabilities. Or people who are older. Or those who, because they are not white, will never feel safe cycling through a neighborhood where they do not belong. Or women who would never be alone in a vehicle where they couldn’t lock the door. Or those who can’t ride a bike (yes, Virginia, some never learn for a variety or reasons that also fell on you, but not me).

It has not escaped my notice that all the cities they say we should be – Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Luxembourg – have an unsurprising similarity when it comes to cultural and racial makeup. It has not escaped my notice, a black man, that they would probably want to be more like those cities in ways other than bicycles.

Article continues after ad

It has not escaped my notice that they only see what is best for them. Because if it’s best for them, then it must of course be best for everyone too…. Right? We must get rid of all the cars, they say but half-jokingly or without a hint of joke. We should replace parking with bike lanes, they’ll say, even disregarding the people who actually live or work or go to church or attend an AA meeting or visit a friend or any of the other perfectly normal and regular activities that take place on a metropolitan street. It has not escaped my notice that they give no weight – in fact, less – to the voices of the people who actually live on that street.

Patrick Rhone

Patrick Rhone

It has not escaped my notice that all their arguments and ideas can be summed up in this one idea: Cycling über Alles! It has also not escaped my notice where such rigidity in thinking often leads.

But what these people seem to have lost is the point of extreme privilege from which they speak and take such positions. The total lack of respect, understanding, consideration or even lip service they pay to anyone who might not be, well, like her.

It has not escaped my notice that these things will continue to be lost to them. Because for them it’s not about participation, but about privilege. And as long as they get their way, as they almost always do, they don’t care who loses.

Patrick Rhone is a resident of St. Paul and Summit Avenue, where he lives with his wife and 14-year-old daughter in a family home purchased in 1965. He is an advocate for: strong diverse communities where all voices are considered.