Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Make America bike again

As I mentioned over a year ago, Americans rarely ride their bikes. This means that what could be the simplest form of exercise or an effective way to avoid traffic is largely ignored by most of people in this country. There are many reasons of this status quo and I'm sure everyone will be able to find own good excuse, but in general, unless you are very lucky and can commute to work through a deep forest or some other uninhabited place, you will end up on road with cars. This road space is supposed to be shared equally between all users but we all know how it works, when we try riding bicycles there.
A friendly reminder for Mr. Motorist who forgets that passing a bicyclist inches away is not "sharing the road".

You may say - that's OK because you're not supposed to ride your bike to work in America. You should drive instead. So you move away from the downtown, into suburbs, far from your daily job and now you have to commute to your office every day. But because there are no other options, you need to drive, which means that you sit in traffic you helped creating and you will likely die there. Not to mention that when you finally get to your office, you have to park somewhere and since space in densely populated city centers is limited, there is no way to provide parking for everyone. This means parking wars, where apparently "even the elimination of four spots has a significant impact on the quality of life". Well, if the quality of your life depends on 4 parking spots, it's a miserable life you're having.

Essentially, if you notice a problem here and decide it's time to fix it, you will quickly see that "the system us actually rigged in favor of cars".
Those who try change it often face some serious opposition of those, who think they will solve the issue by approaching the problem, the way I like to say it - "from the ass's end". They will tell you that it's not the crappy street design but the scofflaw pedestrians who don't play well with the system and that they should wear hi-viz clothing to stay safe. Is then the best way to stay safe simply being on the inside of a car? Over 30,000 deaths per year mean the answer is no. Our current car-focused policy is killing us, but if you think that self-driving cars will change that, you're wrong. They may help reducing the number of distracted driving situations (By the way - phone makers could help here... except they won't), but it will still fill roads with single-occupancy vehicles. You can't just solve this problem by putting everyone in a car.

Changes come slowly. Perhaps they best is still ahead of us as it turns out that younger generations generally care about public transportation more than their parents and want to live in cities. Those who do, don't drive to work because they don't have to - over 55% of citizens of Longwood (Boston's district) walk or bike to work and it takes them less than 30min. to get there. Unfortunately, at the same time nearly 80% of people living in West Roxbury choose to drive, even though they are only 9 miles away from Boston's downtown. With some protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes and better light rail, they could easily leave their cars at home.

That's nothing revolutionary. We were ready to adopt the best standards 40 years ago but we messed it up big time (and sadly bicycling activists were involved). Now we are trying (or actually begging city governors to do it) to install bike lanes and we face some unexpected obstacles once a while. Like this lane in D.C. that is getting axed because it "infringes upon the constitutional right of religious freedom". If that's not clearly rigged in favor of cars then I don't know what is.

The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one. I'm still waiting for the moment when U.S. government announces that the current transportation policy is shit, it's time to focus on public transport instead and make America bike again.

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to drop a quick note to say that I'm enjoying your blog very much, especially the ride reports.

    We used to live in Arlington, then Sudbury (now, south of the city). Having rediscovered my love of bicycling a few months ago, I think I have some pretty good excuses to revisit the old haunts.

    Keep up the great blog!