Konsum und politische Kommunikation
Deutsche und niederländische Radfahrerverbände im Vergleich, 1900–1940
Consumers and national System-builder: Comparing German and Dutch cyclists‘ unions, 1900–1940
This article explores the variability and the limits of the political in regard to cyclists‘ unions in Germany and the Netherlands between 1900 and 1940. In both countries, cyclists formed national consumer organizations, mixing consumer demands with social and even political implications. The Dutch Cyclists‘ Union managed to establish herself as an eminent political actor and „system builder“ with lasting impact on traffic legislation and road construction. While liberals were loosing the political majority in Dutch parliament, the Cyclists‘ Union became a stronghold of Dutch liberalism outside the narrow confines of the old institutionalized political arena. In contrast, German cyclists‘ dreams of opening up social elites and fostering social and political change through the bicycle were shattered. The bicycle, which had started off as a luxury good in the 1890s and had become a common means of transport by the 1920s, was more suitable for political communications „from top to bottom“. Old liberal elites in the Netherlands were quite successful in making use of this consumer object in order to reformulate their existing claims to power and create new realms of the political. A transformation of social and political conditions, „from the bottom up“, as it was hoped for by part of the German cyclists‘ movement, however, turned out to be utopian.