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Chicago-style Neoliberalism: Bike The Drive

May 28, 2016

Chicago’s annual Bike The Drive is just another exemplar of the American neoliberal state, and of Chicago-style neoliberalism in particular.

How? It’s a honorable “liberal” green cause (bicycling!) on a public road near a free park on Lake Michigan. It’s framed as a “festival” and sponsored by MB Financial Bank (a private entity). LSD is a super long stretch of road (30 miles) that is accessible, in theory, to probably 1/3 of the entire city. This is exactly the kind of thing the city and state should support. But the MB Financial charges a not-so-cheap fee to participate: $53 (preregistration for each adult), $64 (same-day registration), and $17 for each child.

Where does the money go? What is the purpose of the fee? The Active Transportation Alliance is listed as an active partner, but the “about” page says one has an opportunity to  join ATA when they arrive at the event.Your entry fee doesn’t even get a membership in a very cool, green organization that deserves maximal support from Chicago citizens.

I’m guessing the fee is simply a barrier to entry—a means to keep out undesirables. If I were feeling frisky, I would even charge racism. Fifteen miles of LSD runs along the South Side, near parts that haven’t yet been gentrified. The whole event is exemplary of neoliberalism because it feels and smells nice, but really just promotes inequality.

Of course it began under Richard J. Daley, a Third Way Democratic mayor. Public-private sponsorships are a hallmark of Third Wayism. And I’m sure that Rahm Emanuel is happy to tout this as example of the city’s “progressivism.”

On tomorrow’s event, it would cost this middle-class family of four (2 adults, 2 children) a grand total of $140 (at minimum) for the privilege. I call bullshit on the whole thing, even though, ironically, I’d love to participate. -TL

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  1. I’m no expert on bicycling fees, but those seem a tad high; higher even than the 5Ks and 10Ks and most of the half and full marathons I’ve run.


    • Thanks Jay! I don’t run in organized races, but I fully expected these fees to be higher. At least in those races, you know the full material and labor needs to pull off the races. There is no such clear accounting in the case of Bike the Drive. – TL

      Liked by 1 person

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