Who’s zoomin’ who?

January 7, 2020 § 5 Comments

Today is Carmaggeddon #104. Things have changed since Day 1, way back in the Stone Age on August 17, 2019.

I saw Ryan Dahl at the BWR movie a few weeks ago. “Are you over it yet?” he asked with a knowing smile.

“Yes,” I said. “Way over it.”

And I saw Kevin Nix at a New Year’s Party. “Do you miss driving?” he asked with a knowing smile.

“Yes,” I said, “like I miss drinking beer.”

Those two interchanges sum it up. Commuting all over Southern California, plus the occasional group ride when I can, is not exciting anymore. It has become a dispassionate calculation of time and energy. “How long will it take to get there and how will it fit in with the other riding I have to do?”

Have to do.

Not want to do.

Have to do.

And the second part is that driving has a wistful allure to it, like being drunk does. I know it is sweet and comforting, and know that with it in my life things have a dreamy quality. But I also know that without it my life is better. Harsher, less forgiving, more comprehensible, more clear, a chocolate cake without the frosting, maybe without the chocolate, but refreshing and beautiful, like clear water.

I’m thinking about that a lot right now as I plan tomorrow’s commute to Yucaipa. Even with the train it will be a 100-mile+ day. Followed by the Flog on Thursday …

But even when I have my doubts, someone will end up sending me something juicy that convinces me that I’m doing the right thing the right way. Like this article, emailed to me by Jordan Schaffel, which pins the fucking tail right where it belongs, not on bike lanes and infrastructure or even on vehicular cycling, but rather on CARS.

The reason kids and adults keep getting hurt and killed while on bicycles is the same reason that skunks and possums and armadillos do. People in cars run them over. The more people you have sitting in cars, the more they will run over people who are walking or bicycling.

This story about Oslo, and what it really takes to hit Vision 0, is a hard fact that infrastructure dorks like Peter Flax and vehicular cyclists like John Forester have a hard time acknowledging: the cheapest, fastest, most efficient, safest, and healthiest way to improve the quality of life for all people–whether they are sitting within cars or without–is to reduce the number of cars. The Vision 0 is the vision of zero cars.

Oslo points strongly to this conclusion: that people in cars aren’t compatible with people outside them. We now have over 1 billion motor vehicles on earth, or roughly one for every 7 people. Is that too many? Only if you ever plan on getting out of the vehicle and using your legs, and don’t laugh. That is for sure the plan of the great majority of people in the USA.

At this intersection, the opposing poles of Flax and Forester run into trouble, because they both love cars, depend on cars, and can’t imagine an environment without them, or even one that greatly restricts their range, ownership, and use. NYC as a no-car zone? That would fix the problem. DTLA without a single car? The city’s green paint budge would be zero.

This sounds about as sane and achievable as not letting people have guns.

As the questions by Ryan and Kevin reveal, something much stronger is at work than the safety, happiness, and quality of life for kids and adults who walk and bicycle. It’s the convenience of being able to do so many things without having to exert your own body. I could tell you that a gallon of milk on my back, along with a 5-pound lock and cable, climbing 900 feet to my apartment, is a very different proposition from hauling those same items in a 5,000-lb. car by simply pressing the gas pedal.

But you know what?

Until you have to do it, you probably won’t ever know.


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