Category Archives: speakingofbicycles

Advocacy & Freedom of Speech

In the final module of this course, our focus is advocacy and activism.

Watch a couple videos. One video is a “crash course” on US law about freedom of speech — you might need to watch it more than once to catch everything. I’ll ask you to pick one other video to watch (see below).

Additionally, please write two short posts for your blog. One post should  discuss your position on freedom of speech.  The second should discuss, analyze, or assess the rhetoric and style of the person (or people) in the video you choose.

But first! I’m going to tell you the story of a colorful personality, the great Lloyd Bitzer.  Actually, he was not a colorful personality, which you will discover if you do an image search. But he was an important figure in the history of the study of rhetoric.

Bitzer wrote a famous definition of rhetoric. He argued that rhetoric is speaking or writing that seeks to change the world by changing the thoughts or values of an audience. The members of the audience, with their new thoughts or ideas, become the agents for change.

So if you want to change the world, that means there must be something wrong with it, right? Exactly. Bitzer theorized that people speak up because they encounter what he called an “exigence” (most people today would say “exigency,” but when you’re the great Lloyd Bitzer I guess you can spell words however you want).

An exigence, Bitzer wrote, is “is an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done, a thing which is other than it should be.” Hang on to this idea — it’ll be important in the coming weeks.


We watched this is class, but watch it again: Freedom of Speech.

Pick one of the following, depending on your interests. Or watch more than one — they all help us think about the complex relationship between rhetoric (speech or writing that moves people to act) and direct action (such as civil disobedience).

Historian/raconteur Utah Phillips and musician Ani DiFranco tell us about the Spokane Free Speech Fight of the early 20th century. This is an audio track that was released on CD in 1999.

Comedian George Carlin delivers his notorious “Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV” bit (audio only, from a 1972 recording). The fallout from this monologue went all the way to the US Supreme Court — look it up, Pacifica v. FCC.

British person Stephen Fry tells us about civil disobedience, a term coined by the American anti-slavery writer Thoreau in the mid-nineteenth century.

Political scientist Erica Chenoweth studies the success rate of nonviolent social movements in a TEDx talk. You can hear from Chenoweth and her co-author Maria Stephan in this NPR piece as well.

Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King argues for the right to protest in a speech given the night before his assassination in 1968 (this is a very short excerpt, but you can find the full transcript and audio elsewhere online). If you haven’t seen King’s later speeches, they’re worth watching — like this one.

Lastly, would any list be complete without Matt Damon?


Read & Respond for class on Tuesday 11/21

Advocacy and activism take many forms. This week, we’ll look at the story of Kathryn Bertine, a cyclist, author, and filmmaker who tackled gender disparity in professional cycling.

Read an article about Bertine here.

We’ll also look at a communication issue that has attracted a lot of attention lately: mansplaining. As public speakers, how can we avoid mansplaining, and how should we respond to it?

Read San Francisco author Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Men Explain Things to Me.”

For class on November 21, read and respond to the story of Bertine and to Solnit’s essay. Identify what are the most important points to you, and discuss an example from your own experience or knowledge.

Below, a map from Solnit’s fanciful atlas of San Francisco:


bikesnobnyc & Velo-Taxonomy

Cover of Eben Weiss’s first book, based on the bikesnobnyc blog.

Way back when in the early days of this course, a student named Kiran Malladi told me about the bikesnobnyc blog. Kiran is now a manufacturing design engineer at Apple, and hard at work, I hope on the much-touted Apple bicycle.*

Bikesnobnyc is written by Eben Weiss, who has become America’s foremost (and most ill-tempered) public bicycle intellectual.

Read Weiss’s humorous taxonomy of cyclists–when you ride a lot in the city, you start to notice that there are lots of different groups out there. Weiss focuses on people who ride for fun (mainly)– he doesn’t much mention people who ride bikes out of economic necessity.

I don’t know if Weiss has launched a public speaking career. If you can find video of Weiss speaking, add a link to it in the comments (below).

*There is no Apple bicycle, touted or otherwise. Except in our dreams.

Internships at SF Bicycle Coalition

man in a pink cycling hat using a pump to inflate a bicycle tire, smiling woman in bike helmet  watches
Pumping up tires as an SFBC volunteer.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has just opened applications for Spring 2018 internships!

More information on the SFBC website:

There are a wide variety of internships available — you can work with kids or adults, with graphic design or bike mechanics, event planning, fundraising, advocacy, education, or many other areas.

Slides from Class 6 — Tuesday 9/26

Illustration from Huff showing visual distortion of data.

In class today, we worked on body awareness and we worked on blogs. We discussed and revised posters, and looked at key ideas from the readings/viewings for today: Huff, Schnell, CARD, and Rosling.

We talked about ideas for your Project 2 presentation.

Link to slides from today, including links to upcoming readings and future assignments. Please review the slides.

And make sure to check out the crazy video linked on the last slide.