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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

An Unholy Alliance

"We're talking real fire and brimstone here! Dogs and cats sleeping together! End of the world stuff!" -- B. Murray

I assume it had to come to pass; a "healthy transportation" website called BikePed.org that caters to both bicyclists and pedestrians in equal measures. The Strib notes that the unholy MN Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance has decided to provide commuters with bikes free-of-charge if they forswear driving their cars to work. In spite of the fact that the several people who took the alliance up on their freebie offer seem way too thrifty for their own good (what? they can't afford to --heaven forbid-- buy a cheap bike?), I would really like this to succeed at some level.

This gives me a chance to launch into a rather meek tirade about how urban planners treat BikePed'rs as second-class citizens.

I bicycle commute daily on a 3-mile+ route that has to skirt around a 3 mile spread of industrial zoning butted against railroad tracks. Unfortunately, a vehicle-only freeway underpass provides the only crossing in this span, and, of course, no one ever considered putting a pedestrian right-of-way alongside the freeway. This means that instead of the under 2 mile car commute, I get only extra exercise for trying my best to reduce the local traffic jams.

It strikes me that if planners had some foresight and added simple things like extra pathways, commuters would have many more options. For me, I could have had an option of biking or walking to work with just a freaking shortcut in place.

If, as many claim, that the car culture leads to isolationism, just reducing the number of cars won't do us a lot of good until we address rather simple shortcomings in our urban infrastructure. We get locked in and isolated because of the metal fences and concrete buildings, not necessarily because of the cars we drive. In other words, driving is the symptom and not the cause.

In a previous post of mine, commenter monkeygrinder recommended Kunstler's "The Geography of Nowhere" as a good read to understand how our concrete environment came into being. I will definitely have to take a look at this book; if for nothing else than to get further depressed. And no matter how deep the depression, I know I can snap out of it by getting on a bike and riding it off.

We need leadership! Oh, never mind.


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