Here We Go Again, Boston Magazine Loses Its Mind, Publishes Horrible Crap

Written by Boston Biker on Mar 15

Its been a while now since the anyone has published something, really, really stupid about bikes. Around a year or two ago most people got religion and realized that bicycling is not some curse upon the city. Most publications even started to hire reporters that seemed to “get it.” They began to cover cycling with a critical but fair eye…then Boston Magazine went and published this amazing pile of shit.

Before I get going however, I would like to throw out an ad-hominem attacks against the author, Colin Kingsbury (who you can let know what you thought of his article here on twitter, or on his website appropriately called “the snob” and if you are a regular cyclist be sure not to support his business, he probably doesn’t want your money anyway)

If you are a cyclist, this Man Doesn't Like You

My attack will come in the form of a question, why is it that all these people who hate bikes so much…look like they are the ones most in need of a good ride around the block? Anyway its been a while since I have had to read anything so horribly silly and misguided, so lets brush off the old critical thinking cap and break this crap down bit by bit.

Colin starts his masterwork with:

Hell Yeah, I Love My Car
The anti-car movement needs to get off its high bicycle and accept a simple fact — living in Boston without a car sucks.

That’s the title…lets you know you are going to get a person who has put their entire brain to work on this problem. “Anti-car” movement? Really? Last time I checked American’s love affair with the car has shown little to no slacking since the thing was invented. There are millions and billions of dollars spend on infrastructure for the things every year, several wars fought to keep the fuel supply for the things secure, and hundreds of thousands of miles of roads built with no one but car drivers in mind…I would think that there is very little in the way of an “anti-car” movement afoot in our fair city.

And as far as the entire premise of this article, that the poor poor car drivers are being persecuted by the “anti-car” movement, and that living in Boston without a car sucks, clearly this man doesn’t live in the same city the rest of us do, because driving in Boston is a fucking nightmare, but let us continue.

SPRING IS RIGHT AROUND the corner, and we all know what that means: streets and sidewalks bustling with fair-weather bicyclists dodging cars and pedestrians, screaming “On the right!” and ringing their cute little bike bells like we’re the ones breaking the law. I particularly love when they keep their helmet on in the Whole Foods checkout lines, lest anyone fail to notice their inherent superiority for riding their amazing bicycle to the supermarket. And actually, they’re merely the shock troops of the modern anti-car brigade: Zipcar-driving hipsters, bike-riding mayors, urban-planning professors, livability advocates, and even Ray LaHood — the secretary of transportation and a former Republican congressman — all convinced that cars are the worst epidemic cities have faced since cholera.

Fellow cyclists, you are the shock troops of the “anti-car” movement! Also you look stupid, so there! How does it feel to be on the front line of the war against cars? I had no idea I had been drafted.

As far as cars vs cholera, the last reported outbreak of cholera in the US was in 1911, it killed several thousand people, where as cars kill roughly 40,000 people a year and this does not include the deaths from obesity, cancer, climate related storms and floods, and oil wars. I would say cars have done far more damage to this nation than cholera. But that is but one of many false comparisons in this article. People wanted to get rid of Cholera (a feat accomplished mostly through good urban planning, something Mr. Kingsbury is against) no one is trying to get rid of the car, they are trying to make the roads useful for all mode types. Something that will benefit the car users as well as everyone else.

He continues:

Marc Schlossberg, a professor of planning, public policy, and management at the University of Oregon, neatly summarized the indictment in the New York Times: “The costs of using the car for every type of trip…are finally apparent, from their contribution to global climate change, the national obesity epidemic from loss of daily physical activity and the 40,000 deaths per year on the road-ways, to the social isolation and neighborhood fragmentation that the roadway system creates.”

A damning bit of evidence against his premise, one he skillfully deals with below:

And here I was thinking that cars were just a mode of transportation that has done as much to modernize the world as clean water. Instead, cars are responsible for obesity, death, and terrible neighborhoods, plus the fact that we’re destined to a lifetime of loneliness. But you want to know something?

I don’t care. (ED: emphasis added) This past January — after three years of going without wheels — I was downright giddy to go to a dealer and buy myself a car. Because here’s the secret the anti-auto mafia doesn’t want you to know: The only thing better than living without a car in Boston — America’s third-most-walkable city — is living here with one.

Should we really take any author seriously that states obvious facts that damn his entire assertion, and then counters them with “I don’t care”? I would say that is enough to make even the most car friendly people realize that this is simply a grown man having a selfish fit.

He then goes on to makes even more good arguments for why the current way we drive cars is a problem, by showing his own personal experience:

When I officially went car-free a few years ago, it was for the same reason I have always been yacht-free and chalet-in-Gstaad-free: I didn’t have the money. I’d been driving a banged-up ’98 Ford Escort since 2004, when I started my software company, but by May 2009, every part of the business had grown except my own salary. So when I came up against a $1,000 estimate for repairs to pass inspection, I sold the junker to a guy with a flatbed truck and $105.

Car-free-and-loving-it types often describe dumping their automobile as a moment of liberation. I have to admit, for a while I kind of saw their point: There was no more waking up in terror that I’d parked on the wrong side of the street and was about to get towed. And when winter came, I’d look at my neighbors excavating their buried hoopties from a snowbank and think, “Suckers!”

Largely because my daily commute from East Boston consisted of a mere walk to the T, and because my bachelor lifestyle revolved mostly around an assortment of downtown watering holes, it took a while before things began to go to pieces. The train went pretty much everywhere I needed to go in order to survive, and I could grab the makings for dinner at my neighborhood market. And if a cute redhead with a smorgasbord of progressive buttons on her messenger bag happened to compliment me on my environmental awareness, well, it didn’t matter why my carbon emissions had plummeted, did it?

He was having a great time, even meeting hot progressive women, but then he switches gears a bit:

But slowly, my world shrunk. What had been a 20-minute drive to visit friends on the far side of the Charles or across Mass. Ave. was now an hour-plus schlep requiring at least two train lines and a bus. Which meant I wound up seeing a lot less of them. And those romantic, oh-so-European daily trips to the neighborhood market for fresh produce quickly became a price-gouging hassle. Leaving the city wasn’t worth the trouble of booking a rental car or hitching a ride with generous friends, so everything outside the 617 area code suddenly resembled the fringes of a centuries-old map inscribed “Uncharted Territories.”

As for those supposed car-ownership replacements? Ha! Zipcar is great for a trio of Fenway-dwelling Berklee students making the occasional Ikea run, but costs become prohibitive for regular users, and the need to return cars to central parking spots can make it more of an ordeal than taking the bus. Meanwhile, with four seasons that feature everything from blizzards and high winds to torrential rain and thunderstorms, bicycles are more a means of recreation than transportation for anyone who has to wear actual pants, let alone a suit, to work.

Here’s the truth: Going car-free is considerably easier if you are happy spending a relative fortune to rent a small apartment in an ultra-high- density neighborhood; enjoy one of a limited number of well-paying jobs in a downtown office; rarely need to move anything larger than a week’s supply of Lean Cuisine frozen dinners; and are happy within the confines of your neighborhood. Just imagine commuting from Dorchester to an office park on Route 128, or wrangling two children and a week’s worth of groceries onto a bus, which many less-well-off Bostonians do. Only a few neighborhoods — mostly Beacon Hill and the Back Bay — have the density to support the kind of mass-transit network and local retail presence to make car ownership largely irrelevant the way it is in Manhattan. No, in Boston, a voluntary carless lifestyle is only realistic for the young and childless with the luck of working at a well-paying job near a T stop. In short: yuppies. They’re the very same people who subscribe to locavorism and sneer that food in this country is far too cheap, but have no clue what it’s like to raise a family in a dodgy neighborhood or take the bus to a low-paying job across the city.

It would seem that even though he starts the article with how bad cyclists are, he is really pissed off about the poor state of public transportation. He also seems to have completely ignored the fact that he could have purchased a cheap bike and rode all over this town.

Biking or taking the train alone can sometimes make transportation hard, but if you combine a bike, the train, the bus, and zip car, 95% of your transportation needs are taken care of easily and cheaply and you don’t have to do any of the things he mentions.

His world shrank because he continued to think about it all the same way he did when he had a car. Even a modicum of planning would have greatly enlarged his “world.” Maybe he is spending too much time ranting about cyclists being shock troops to actually try getting on a bicycle.

Had he done even cursory research he would have seen that riding your bike in this town is easy and fun, even for those who have to wear “real pants” to work. But what would have been the fun in that? He wouldn’t have gotten to continue his illogical rant.

Needless to say, I was more than thrilled when my business finally took off last year and I was able to go out and buy some wheels. And no, I didn’t opt for a gas-guzzling eight-cylinder Ford F-150 with a gun rack and a collection of anti-Obama bumper stickers. I bought a sporty little Miata, for two simple reasons: It’s easy to wedge into small parking spaces and corners harder than a Green Line trolley. It’s the perfect city car.

The day I picked it up, I zipped over to Union Square for dinner with an old friend. It took 15 minutes, not an hour. Our conversation naturally focused on the new places I could now visit, all the quirky small retailers scattered around the fringes of the city (specialty barware!), and the jaunts up and down the coast. No longer hitched to the vagaries of the T or the availability of Zipcars, I knew the world was once again my bivalve.

Fist off, the gas mileage on a Miata, and a ford f-150 are almost the same, and second. RIIIIGHHTT, because that is how it is driving in this city every day. He missed the entire point here, the only reason he is able to get anywhere in a car in this city is because many people in this city are not in cars. I am pretty sure I can put more in my backpack than you can in a Miata, and even though its tiny, if everyone owned one the roads would be a snarl of traffic. If everyone followed his lead the roads would be chocked with excellent turning tiny Miata’s.

Its bad enough now with car ownership levels as it is. This mans vision of “freedom” is simply not meshing with what we all know about “reality.” His ability to zoom around traffic free is a direct result of people taking public transport, walking, and cycling. Most days you can’t just “zoom” anywhere in Boston in car. Zooming is reserved for cyclists, pedestrians, and train users. But that is the sort of coo-coo logic you have to get used to if you have read this far.

Here is where he takes the biggest leap off the reality cliff:

It wasn’t cars that devastated cities, but urban planners with a terminal excess of confidence in their own genius. The midcentury notion that the world ought to be segregated into vast tracts of exclusively residential, commercial, or industrial zones linked by multilane highways is now rightly regarded as a radical and myopic shift from how cities previously grew — slowly and organically, boasting a combination of homes and businesses. Livable cities are, above all else, places where people can pursue the sort of life they want, and for the vast majority of people, that includes a car.

The morning after my trip to Union Square, I was just as delighted to once again get to work by walking out my front door and down the street to the T stop. Public transit is a boon of city living, and frankly, trying to commute in this city is madness. But now that I’m also armed with car keys, I can, and will, go far beyond the limits of my neighborhood.

Now, please excuse me. I think I hear a street sweeper coming….

Excuse me sir, but why do you think they built those suburbs, and connected them all with giant highways? It is because the “freedom” of the car allowed for sprawl, and low density parking lot strip-mall nightmares. The “car first” design is exactly what you are talking about, zoning laws had very little to do with it. Even his final sentence hints at the new problems owning a car has brought him, once again undermining any argument he might have built up.

Clearly this article is written by a man with little knowledge of the history of urban development, modern complete streets philosophy, or even the slightest grasp on logic. I feel bad even linking to this shit, and now that I have written all this I feel like it was all a waste of time. This guy makes his bread and butter on saying stupid things, saying them loudly, and waiting for the hate to pour in. In a horrible kind of way I am helping him.

The entire article is crap, soup to nuts. There is not a single redeeming bit of logic or argument in the entire article. From the false war between car driver and non-car drivers, to the idea that not owning a car makes your life less fulfilled. This article fails to see the big picture, a road system designed for everyone, car drivers included. One that promotes high density urban living, while making the roads safe for all road users.

This man needs to have someone take him out and ride around on a bicycle. I gladly volunteer to take him around town on a bicycle (we can both wear “real pants”), that is of course if he doesn’t see this offer as a sneaky way to recruit him into my secret army of shock troop hipsters.

Add your thoughts in the comments.

PS. thanks Casey for the heads up on this article

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Posted in bostonbiker | 16 Comments »

16 Responses to “Here We Go Again, Boston Magazine Loses Its Mind, Publishes Horrible Crap”

  1. By Erik on Mar 15, 2012 | Reply

    I’m a little more meh about it. I use a combination of T, bike, and car, and I think his comparison of T-only vs car+T highlight the fact that not restricting yourself to the T makes it a lot easier to get around. He mistakenly lumped bike in with T instead of with car. Since he’s not a cyclist, I can’t say I’m surprised.

    He clearly hasn’t considered using a bike for transportation and doesn’t realize that it can give you just about all the benefits of a car in Boston.

    IMO this is simply an overreaching lifestyle column that ventured a little too far into the realm of urban planning. Articles about guilty pleasures are fine. Just don’t try to rationalize them if you can’t.

  2. By Michael Blackmore on Mar 15, 2012 | Reply

    I live in JP and used to be in Union Square and somehow managed to survive the “emotional trauma” that not having a car seems to entail in his blinkered vision of life. In fact, I’ve been car free for more than 20 years and generally loving it!

  3. By Erik on Mar 15, 2012 | Reply

    Oh god. Don’t read his blog. Especially his previous writing about bicycles.

    “That said, my chief objection to the contrivance is not mechanical but aesthetic in nature. While the antisocial tendencies of bicycle messengers are universally-acclaimed, it is equally beyond doubt that any person old enough to drink legally who rides a bicycle for transportation purposes is a consumer of health foods, marihuana, and foolish continental political philosophies.”

    I might have to rescind my previous comment….

  4. By Michael Blackmore on Mar 15, 2012 | Reply

    Good catch Erik. I particularly rolled my eyes at this quote from the link you included:

    “Surely making the city more “bicycle-friendly” makes about as much sense as making it more rat-friendly, though it may be said in favor of rodents that they generally know well enough to clear the streets and sidewalks in the face of automobiles and pedestrians alike.”

    Sounds like he has bigger issues best left for professional mental health counselors…

  5. By Wandering Woman on Wheels on Mar 15, 2012 | Reply

    Yah, he’s a snob all right. I’ve been without a car since right before I reluctantly moved back here from California, because losing my car caused me to lose my jobs and clients, and caused my life to go into a downward spiral. I didn’t have a bike, and my 30-minute freeway jaunts to work would not have been practical on a bike. Sure, I would love to have a car again, and I understand his joy in his new-found ability to avert horrendous T “service”…but that’s another issue. He relishes his ability to condescend, not only to those of us who wouldn’t mind having the convenient but unaffordable option to use a car again, but to ANYONE who CHOOSES to live a lifestyle unencumbered by car payments, insurance, gas prices, and parking challenges…just to take a 15-minute ride.

    I LOVE my bike! I use it as transportation to one job via the T, a quick trip to other job in town, and as transit WHILE doing my 3rd job. I also ride at my leisure, for enjoyment. I have started to “take the lane” more in order to avoid being forced off the road by jerks like this guy, who think we do not have a right to exist, because they see us as being in the way of their RUSH to the next RED LIGHT. What a jerk.

    Let it be said, I do encounter many courteous car drivers on a daily basis, who yield or wave me on, or look before they open their doors on Centre St. I wave to courteous car drivers all the time, I follow the traffic laws and yield when I feel it is safer to wait for a car to pass. So I agree, there is no need to take an “us and them” holier-than-thou stance. Bicyclists are not Second-class Citizens, after all! We are your neighbors!

  6. By M on Mar 15, 2012 | Reply

    “My attack will come in the form of a question, why is it that all these people who hate bikes so much…look like they are the ones most in need of a good ride around the block?”

    Wow, way to alienate less-than-fit people who bike. You were trying to disprove the snobbery in the article, weren’t you?

  7. By Weather Guy on Mar 16, 2012 | Reply

    I liked that the crux of his “argument” is that poor people and families can’t rely on bikes, however in that article he proudly identifies himself as a member of neither group.

    The only defense I can offer is that his mistakes are common ones: most people indict what they have never really explored or bothered to understand.

  8. By James Lambda on Mar 16, 2012 | Reply

    One key issue for this gentleman: The car-free lifestyle works better when you choose to live somewhere near (from a travel perspective) the places you want to visit. He chooses to live in East Boston and complains how difficult it is for him visit places like downtown and Cambridge.

    Unless your destination is the airport, Aquarium, or Government Center, getting out of East Boston is unpleasant regardless of the mode of transportation. His best option is definitely driving through the (bike-inaccessible) Sumner tunnel, which is pretty unique compared to almost everywhere else in Boston…

  9. By JonT on Mar 16, 2012 | Reply

    “Anti-car” movement? Really? …I would think that there is very little in the way of an “anti-car” movement afoot in our fair city.

    Oh? Then how come they eliminated a travel lane on the BU bridge, are planing on doing likewise on the Longellow, are getting rid of the Casey Overpass, etc.

    The author of that article is completely clueless (actually, worse than just clueless, but cluelessly hostile) when it comes to bikes. But there clearly is an anti-car movement going on in Boston, and it already has a few victories under its belt.

    To be honest, apart from the hostility to bikes, I agree with much of the article. Note that (except for bikes) he’s not hostile to other modes of transportation — he still uses the T to get to work. And even though I love cycling and use my bike for commuting and running various errands within a few miles, and the T where feasible, there are certainly times when a car is the best tool for the job, and I’m glad we have a car in the family.

    Fist off, the gas mileage on a Miata, and a ford f-150 are almost the same

    Umm… Even looking at your link, which for some reason compares 2003 vehicles rather than more recent models (the guy says he bought the Miata last year), there’s a large difference. And comparing 2011 vehicles, the Miata’s combined mileage is 77% higher than the F150’s.

  10. By Colin Kingsbury on Mar 16, 2012 | Reply

    I’ll tell you guys what. Let’s pick a day in the next week or two, we’ll meet at a Hubway stand, and you guys can show me why I’m wrong about all this. The way this is written you’d think I proposed offering a $25 bounty for every bloodstained bike helmet brought to city hall.

  11. By Boston Biker on Mar 17, 2012 | Reply

    @Jon T

    You really think that optimizing the road system for all users is “anti-car”? If your dentist told you that they had to remove an extra baby tooth from your child because it was going to mess up the rest of his teeth, would you call that dentist “anti-tooth” Sometimes things need to be removed, or added to keep our road system current and optimized for modern conditions. You might also be asking yourself if we are anti-horse, because there are almost no tie up spots left near local saloons, or if we are anti-zeppelin because we no longer have docking facilities on all of our tallest buildings. Our transportation system changes over time, that doesn’t mean there is some vast conspiracy to attack the car, or their drivers.

    As far as him being hostile to other modes of transport, read it again, you will find that he is very underwhelmed with public transportation, as well.

    As far as millage goes, 2mpg is 100% better than 1mpg, the f-150 and the miata both have horrible millage, for any model year your compare. That was may point. The original author is claiming that the miata is somehow the rational choice because of its size and millage and I am simply pointing out that he could have gotten nearly the same gas millage with either car.

  12. By Boston Biker on Mar 17, 2012 | Reply

    @colin sent you an email, would be happy to talk.

  13. By Boston Biker on Mar 17, 2012 | Reply


    I thought personal attacks were ok, as mr. Kingsbury fills his article with them…I feel like I was far more polite than he.

  14. By JonT on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    @Boston Biker: The dentist in your analogy is no more anti-tooth than removing a general traffic lane and replacing it with bike lanes is anti-transportation. But we weren’t talking about being anti-transportation, we were talking about being anti-car. The dentist is, in fact, anti-baby-tooth, which in that example is the correct attitude to take for the overall health of the patient’s mouth. Similarly, those who advocated reducing the capacity of the BU Bridge to carry cars was, in fact, being anti-car, because they felt that the overall transportation system was enhanced by replacing general vehicle capacity with bike-specific capacity.

    Someone who advocates removing horse-tying-posts from Boston (if we actually had any) would indeed be anti-horse (and maybe anti-bike too, since I’ll bet horse-tying posts would make excellent bike racks :-), but that’s an easy position to take, since few Bostonians actually ride horses. Similarly with Zeppelins (were there ever any Zeppelin stations on Boston Buildings?) But there are many thousands of people in Boston who drive cars. I can see where you could argue that reducing the capacity of local roads and bridges to carry cars in favor of other modes would be better for overall transportation, but it’s much harder to argue that it’s not anti-car, especially if you consider the perspective of those drivers who are directly affected by this change.

    As for some “vast conspiracy to attack the car, or their drivers”, I see various bike and pedestrian advocacy groups and blogs that advocate reducing capacity for cars in favor of other modes, and encouraging people to switch from driving to cycling, walking and using mass transit. Some of them even accuse drivers of being fat, lazy and out of shape. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily (though that last tactic of attacking drivers seems likely to backfire). It could lead to many benefits to society. I find it odd that you deny that this exists, since this blog is very much a part of that movement.

  15. By M on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    @Boston Biker –

    Two wrongs don’t, in fact, make a right. But if you’re going to childishly get involved in an insult war, at least don’t insult people who are (or were) willing to be on your side.

  16. By Charlie on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    To me, “anti-car” is really about intent. When you have limited space and want to add a bike facility where there is not one, you have to take space from the cars and/or the pedestrians. Since it was not feasible physically, nor desirable due to the large numbers of pedestrians who use the bridge, to take space from pedestrians, the space for the bike lanes was taken from cars. However, the intention was NOT to make it more difficult for cars. In fact, all of the agencies involved did everything they could to minimize any negative impacts on cars with the lane configuration they selected as well as the signal timings on either end of the bridge. So, while the result may be slightly anti-car (the impact is minimal since the bridge has always been fed by one lane in either direction), the reason for the lane reduction was to add a bike lane. While some advocates may think that making it difficult to drive should be a goal (which certainly is anti-car), most I would say most are simply looking to ensure that the most vulnerable roadway users are properly accommodated.

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