CTC vegan cycling evangelists
Last Sunday in the Campaigning & Public Policy section of the CTC forums someone started a thread titled: "It turns me off." The thread starter (OP) was referring to a Cyclenation Conference he'd been to in Nottingham, where one of the organisers, a Local Authority cycle trainer who'd laid on a vegan lunch, gave a short sermon in which he announced from the pulpit: "Reduce your carbon footprint; stop eating meat and dairy products." The CTC, by the way, is the British Cycle Touring Club who, I think, were partly responsible for the event (admission fee £20), and a vegan is someone who adopts a diet and lifestyle that excludes the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. In his post the OP wrote: "It's about time people realised that the best way to grow cycling is to sell it for what it is."
Which sparked off a debate that is still running three days later, the majority of whose cycling participants heartily agree with the OP, objecting to cycling being hi-jacked by a bunch of Green evangelists. "Tosh!" they proclaim. "I cycle cos I love it!" But then they go on to discuss how to change people's mindsets and better ways to promote cycling: the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle, the health benefits, how it saves money, reduces congestion, and so on... and yes, cycling and lentil soup might also help Save the Planet (if only to the tiniest degree).
Evangelism is probably too strong a word for "promotion" but it's clear that many cyclists believe cycling is a pursuit that should be promoted. This is something I never practice myself – promotion, I mean – even though I would like to see more people on bicycles and less cars on the roads. People who have an outlook with something imprinted on their brain and have an uncontrollable desire to impose it on everyone they meet are best avoided, whether they're politicians, religious believers, 'Greens', or those who argue we should all be riding a bike.
I doubt if I've ever persuaded a single person to take something up purely because I approve of it (not that I've tried very hard), nor have I ever started doing something because someone persuaded me to. To me, it's about 'removing barriers' (hate that phrase) and making cycling more accessible. The man who was so offended by the vegan evangelist did exactly the right thing when he formed a cycling group which now has 250 members in his small town, more and more of whom cycle not only for health and enjoyment, but also for utility trips, day to day transport and commuting. They took it up because it was there.