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I was having a discussion with someone this morning and we realized that at every stage in the development of automobile infrastructure in America, other, consistently better, choices for infrastructure were available, but we continued to choose the car every time.
We could have built high speed rail, but we built highways. We could have built rapid transit bus lines, but we built a snarl of traffic filled streets. We could have built a bike and pedestrian path networks, instead we cut up neighborhoods with massive highway projects. At every stage we took a look at all the options, and choose the worst one.
Which has lead to our current situation, where transportation spending is dominated by the needs of the automobile, and not the humans using that automobile.
Seems I am not the only one who has come to this conclusion, there is an excellent article in The Atlantic that really goes step by step in showing just how destructive American’s fascination with cars has become.
It starts off laying down some real talk:
Simply this: In almost every way imaginable, the car, as it is deployed and used today, is insane.
Then the author Edward Humes goes on to lay our in depressing and methodical detail just how horrible the car has been for America.
What are the failings of cars? First and foremost, they are profligate wasters of money and fuel: More than 80 cents of every dollar spent on gasoline is squandered by the inherent inefficiencies of the modern internal combustion engine. No part of daily life wastes more energy and, by extension, more money than the modern automobile.
Would you burn 8 our of every 10 dollars you made for the freedom to get in a box and get stuck in traffic? Because you are literally burning 80% of the money you put into that car.
While burning through all that fuel, cars and trucks spew toxins and particulate waste into the atmosphere that induce cancer, lung disease, and asthma. These emissions measurably decrease longevity—not by a matter of days, but years. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculates that 53,000 Americans die prematurely every year from vehicle pollution, losing 10 years of life on average compared to their lifespans in the absence of tailpipe emissions.
TEN YEARS! Are we really so addicted to the “freedom” the car provides us that we would sacrifice ten years of our lives for them?! Let alone the 50,000+ people who straight up die early every year.
On economy and global security:
There are also the indirect environmental, health, and economic costs of extracting, transporting, and refining oil for vehicle fuels, and the immense national-security costs and risks of being dependent on oil imports for significant amounts of that fuel. As an investment, the car is a massive waste of opportunity—“the world’s most underutilized asset,” the investment firm Morgan Stanley calls it. That’s because the average car sits idle 92 percent of the time. Accounting for all costs, from fuel to insurance to depreciation, the average car owner in the U.S. pays $12,544 a year for a car that puts in a mere 14-hour workweek. Drive an SUV? Tack on another $1,908.14
Sheesh…another way to look at it, is that if you ride a bicycle instead of driving you will be saving at least that much money. Also if your bike sits around unused for 92 % of the time you will not be wasting nearly as much money, as your bike probably cost you a couple hundred dollars and doesn’t constantly need new oil filters and gasoline. Not to mention you don’t need bicycle insurance.
On the Environment:
Then there is the matter of climate. Transportation is a principal cause of the global climate crisis, exacerbated by a stubborn attachment to archaic, wasteful, and inefficient transportation modes and machines. But are cars the true culprit? Airplanes, for instance, are often singled out as the most carbon-intensive form of travel in terms of emissions per passenger-mile (or per ton of cargo), but that’s not the whole story: Total passenger miles by air are miniscule compared to cars. In any given year, 60 percent of American adults never set foot on an airplane, and the vast majority who do fly take only one round trip a year. Unfortunately, air travel is not the primary problem, contributing only 8 percent of U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gases. Cars and trucks, by contrast, pump out a combined 83 percent of transportation carbon.
There is simply no doubt, our addiction to driving our cars is going to destroy the environment we need to live. There is little point in having the “freedom to travel” if the territory you are traveling over resembles a nightmare hell-scape. Mad Max is not an instruction manual, its a cautionary tale.
The unacceptable cost in lives:
Annual U.S. highway fatalities outnumber the yearly war dead during each Vietnam, Iraq, the War of 1812, and the American Revolution.
And that’s not even counting cars’ most dramatic cost: They waste lives. They are one of America’s leading causes of avoidable injury and death, especially among the young.
Jim McNamara, a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol, where officers spend 80 percent of their time responding to car wrecks, believes such public inattention and apathy arise whenever a problem is “massive but diffuse.” Whether it’s climate change or car crashes, he says, if the problem doesn’t show itself all at once—as when an airliner goes down with dozens or hundreds of people on board—it’s hard to get anyone’s attention. Very few people see what he and his colleagues witness daily and up close: what hurtling tons of metal slamming into concrete and brick and trees and one another does to the human body strapped (or, all too often, not strapped) within.
Every time you see war casualties, or terrorist attacks on the news, realize that what the news is not talking about is the thousands of deaths that month from car crashes.
If we were in a war with cars, it would be the longest and deadliest war we have ever been in. Roughly 40-50 THOUSAND people a year. Or to put it another way this is more deaths than a 9-11 scale terror attacks every month year in and year out for the last 50 years. One wonders why this isn’t the number one news story every day.
The article itself makes the same conclusion I have:
This disparity in attention between plane crashes and car crashes cannot be justified by their relative death tolls. Quite the contrary: In the 14 years following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there were eight crashes on American soil of passenger planes operated by regional, national, or international carriers. The death toll in those crashes totaled 442. That averages out to fewer than three fatalities a month.
The death toll on America’s streets and highways during that same period since 9/11 was more than 400,000 men, women, and children. The traffic death toll in 2015 exceeded 3,000 a month. When it comes to the number of people who die in car wrecks, America experiences the equivalent of four airliner crashes every week.
A normal day on the road, then, is a “quiet catastrophe,” as Ken Kolosh, the statistics chief for the National Safety Council, calls it.
Car crashes take our young people from us:
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 39. They rank in the top five killers for Americans 65 and under (behind cancer, heart disease, accidental poisoning, and suicide).
And when cars don’t outright kill us they cost us a lot of money and suffering, even if you don’t drive:
And the direct economic costs alone—the medical bills and emergency-response costs reflected in taxes and insurance payments—represent a tax of $784 on every man, woman, and child living in the U.S.
And yet we have people who will fight long and hard to keep on-street parking, and keep speed limits high, and lobby for more highways, and complain that bike lanes will make it harder to drive.
What has lead Americans to fight so hard for something that is so bad for them?
Is it the non-stop barrage of car commercials showing rich white people cruising empty streets while encased in luxury leather and listening to the latest hit song?
Could it be the massive amounts of money spent by auto industry lobbyists to promote cars over public transit? Could it be the large oil companies spending millions to lower emission standards?
Could it be the joy that is the daily commute? Or the joy of traffic filled highways? The asthma, the obesity, the oil wars, the oil spills, the global warming, the road rage, the plowing under of nature for highways and roads, the constant bills, repairs, tickets, tolls, and insurance?
I simply don’t understand why the vast majority of city dwelling Americans own and operate their own car, especially when you consider there are a host of better, cheaper, healthier options available to them.
Tags: rant, ride a bike, your car is killing you
Posted in advocacy, bostonbiker | No Comments »
or is New England creating new and horrible types of precipitation to hurl at my face? What exactly was that flying out of the sky around 5:30 pm today. Ice snow? Rain Hail? Tiny spike ice? It was like small bundles of ice knives flying into my eyes…totally awesome. In the biblical sense (the parts about destruction).
Tags: rant, snow ice thing
Posted in Bike Business | 1 Comment »
I never thought I would see the day when car drivers are now no longer the main source of frustration in my daily commute…Pedestrians we need to talk.
I feel like there has been a lot of effort to get cyclists and motorists to act less like assholes, and to my untrained eye it seems like it is working. I see far less rule breaking from these two road using classes than I did 5 years ago. The change has been slow, and we certainly have a LONG way to go, but its working.
There is one user group however that hasn’t kept up with the “new normal” of road use here in Boston, yes I am talking about you pedestrians. If anything the more orderly traffic patterns, and more well behaved motorists and cyclists seem to have emboldened you to act even worse.
In the same way that cops will pick an intersection and hand out bike tickets, and motorist tickets its time for some targeted enforcement of pedestrians. Even written warnings will do. The time it takes the cop to write out the warning is enough of a punishment to get most peoples attention.
Until that starts to happen, here are some tips for pedestrians, please stop doing the following.
Wait on the sidewalk for the light to change, do not stand in the street:
Cyclists need every inch of road we can wrestle from cars and if you are standing in the road it forces us into conflicts with much bigger more dangerous things. If its a choice between hitting you and getting hit by a car the choice is clear.
Don’t walk from between parked cars:
I feel like this is street crossing 101, but for fucks sake do you want to be hit by something? What is worse is that you are putting other people in danger with your foolishness. You will eventually be hit by something doing this, its just a matter of time. Please don’t be a jerk, don’t hurt yourself or others, walk the extra ten feet to the cross walk and cross with everyone else.
Just because the car traffic is stationary that doesn’t mean the cyclist traffic is:
Cyclists move down the bike lane, or down the right hand side of the road, just because the cars are stopped doesn’t mean the cyclists are. Playing frogger through a bunch of car traffic that isn’t moving is the same thing as jumping out from behind a parked car. You will be hit, it will hurt, you will break something. Oh by the way, just because the cars are not moving now doesn’t mean they wont start moving in a second.
If you must J walk, look both ways first!
Knowledge is knowing the street is one way, wisdom is looking both ways anyway. You might think nothing is coming, you might not hear anything, but you can’t be sure unless you look both ways. Cyclists don’t make much noise, but it will still hurt if they hit you.
You have to wait your turn:
If you want motorists and cyclists to stop at red lights, and stop signs you can’t just go when the red hand is up. Whats worse is when you look both ways, see a bunch of traffic coming, and walk out anyway. Its exactly the kind of behavior that would frustrate you if you were in a car or riding a bike, but you seem to have no problem doing it when you are walking around. You are needlessly putting yourself and others in danger, and being a jerk at the same time.
I don’t think these are unreasonable demands. Nor are they burdensome to the pedestrians that want to use the street. I understand signal timing can be wrong, or that walk times are too short, but none of that has anything to do with what I have mentioned above.
In short, stop being such an asshole and start being more invested in your own safety and the safety of those around you.
Tags: pedestrians, rant, stop trying to kill me with your stupid!
Posted in Bike Business | 12 Comments »
While it’s true that our transportation system, and how it works, involve engineering data, and traffic flows, there are less obvious aspects of human behavior that are often not as talked about, that feature prominently in how our road system work. I have written a lot about these more esoteric natures of our road system, it is very much about shared trust, behavior, and attitudes.
So lets shine a light on these less often explored aspects of human behavior. I think about this a lot when I am riding around. Someone walks out in front of you after looking you right in the eye, someone pulls out of a parking spot when they know you are next to them, they cut you off, they do things that just seem wrong and you ask yourself…Are these people stupid, do they not know any better, or are they simply jerks? I see the options breaking down like this:
1. They are ignorant. They really just don’t have the information they need to make a good choice, so when they run a red light, or walk out in front of you, its because they didn’t know they were not supposed to do that. In many ways this is both the least offensive option, and the most terrifying.
2. They are stupid. They have the information they need, but choose not to use it. This may be because of lack of attention, or lapse in judgement, or because they are on their phone. They are not doing these things maliciously, but if asked, they do know better.
3. They are jerks. They know better, they have thought about it, and after all that they still chose to do some horrible thing. Because fuck you, that’s why!
I have lived in a lot of different parts of this country, have visited even more places, and have found that by and large the difference is not the first two. There is about the same number of people in all locations that are both ignorant, or stupid.
The real issue, especially in places like Boston, and other east coast locations, is that we have a LOT more jerks.
Boston has a culture of rude road sharing. They walk the way they bike the way they drive. I am sure if the trains were not on rails they would be cutting each other off. I don’t know how it got like this, but I am confident that it is our culture of road use that is the problem.
I think the problem is that people in this town have cognitive dissonance, that is they hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time. They hate it when a cyclist runs through a red light, but then do the same thing when they ride their bike. They hate it when pedestrians crowd out into the street and then do the same when they are walking around. They hate when there is traffic, but they drive big cars around that take up lots of road space.
Everyone is guilty of this at least some of the time, I have done it, I am sorry. This even happens in other less toxic road cultures, the problem is we Bostonian’s seem to do it ALL THE DAMN TIME!
I think this misses an important point, folks around here are generally good. You are are basically a good person! We all need to remind each other that we are good people. Good people wait for the walk signal. Good people don’t run through a red light nearly hitting pedestrians on their bike. Good people don’t speed up at yellow lights, and use turn signals, and look in their mirrors. Good people are patient, and good people are not so quick to get violent, or retaliatory.
Next time you are out and about using our limited road resources, remind yourself you are a good person, and act like it. The only way to change the culture of how our roads are used is to change the way each of us individually use our roads.
Tags: don't be a jerk, rant, you are a good person
Posted in bostonbiker | 1 Comment »
I have written a lot in the past about my belief that no single user class in Boston is any more or less guilty for the state of our streets than any other. I think cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists are all equally to blame for poor performance of our streets (AKA: public utilities designed to move people).
So don’t take this post as an indication that I am singling out only one user group for scorn, as I have heaped it upon them all in the past, and will so again in the future.
It’s just that I have had a lot of trouble with pedestrians lately, and it gave me an idea. A new criteria for hiring employees should be a test to see if they know how to cross the damn road.
First a couple examples:
Lady wants to cross the street, lady looks both ways, lady sees not one, but many cyclists in the bike lane about 10 feet from her. Everyone screams at her, she does walks out anyway.
Cyclists scatter in all directions. I should also note, this wasn’t at a cross walk, or anywhere near a cross walk.
Guy wants to cross the street, cars are moving in the lanes, he is not at a cross walk. He steps into street anyway. All of the cars slow/swerve to miss him. At no point was he in any real danger of being hit by anything, until he decided to jump from where he was, to where I was going around him. He is flexing his muscles like some sort of bro-dude frat-boy show of manly strength and begins to scream at me. I have no idea why he did this, perhaps he was worried I didn’t see him (I saw him get out of bed I had been watching him so long). I was able to swerve out of the way of this hulking idiot (thus preventing the implanting of my front wheel into his sternum), safely shepherding him across a busy street full of cars.
I use these two examples because both of these folks were dressed in very professional business type clothing. It was clear that they were not only employed, but held some position of importance in their companies.
The next time you see some kid in a Harvard jacket who is unable to cross the street, remember kid got into the best school in the country and can’t cross the street. Or if you are out in front of some giant bank, and the employees are clogging up the road, these people move millions of dollars around and Can’t Cross The Street. Or if you are in the medical area and see a bunch of doctors walk out into moving traffic, these folks literally have peoples lives in their hands and don’t understand the right way to CROSS THE GOD DAMN ROAD…boggles the mind.
Which leads me to my proposal. If you want a job, you have to prove you have enough sense to cross the street. Same goes with entering college, or applying for a fishing licence. Basically anything of importance. They do the interview then take you outside and have you cross a couple times. If you can’t figure it out…next applicant!
I also think they should re-test on a regular basis. Say quarterly. Everyone has their little HR review with Donna, and then you go over your 401k with Bob, your vacation time with Julio, etc etc. Then they take you outside and see if you know the difference between moving cars and stationary ones, if you can look both ways, if you can judge imminent threats to your person, and if you can tell the difference between the crosswalks and the middle of the damn road. If you pass, congrats 5% raise, and the corner office. If not, back to the mail-room asshole!
Tags: pedestrians, rant, testing for employment
Posted in bostonbiker | 8 Comments »
The title of this post comes from the parting lines of a police training video from florida.
Those words have been swimming around in my head for a couple days now. I had always thought something similar but “Public utility designed to move people” really crystallized my ideas. Roads are for people, and those roads work better or worse depending on how those people choose to use those roads.
For instance Latron sent in this lovely picture.
I really noticed this during the storm. People had reclaimed the streets, and were almost universally happy about it. It was only when the cars came back that things started to get nasty.
Being a public utility, roads are a shared but limited resource. We only have so much space, and we have to move everyone around. Like public water infrastructure, the size of our “pipe” is only so big.
Why is it then that we seem to prioritize the most inefficient user of our roads, single occupancy automobiles? As I have written about before, cars are way too big for the job they do. Using many more square feet of our roads to move the same number of people around that a bicycle or a pair of shoes could do much faster, and cheaper.
It would seem that we have convinced ourselves to do something that is foolish. When you see a lot of people doing something foolish, its often helpful to follow the money. Who makes money from a foolish act, and what is their motivation for having people continue to do said foolish act. In this case you will easily follow the money back to a whole host of very large companies (car/oil/construction).
Then its just a matter of looking at how they have convinced people that this foolish act is a good idea, and before too long you have it pretty much figured out. Some small number of people make a very large amount of money if everyone continues to drive cars, they convince us we need to drive cars with billions of dollars in advertisement, and secure their money flow with lobbying of our elected officials.
This is basically how capitalism works in america. For better or worse we live in a system where often making money for a few outweighs the benefits for the many. Not only would our roads be much more effective at moving people around if they were not clogged with single occupancy motor vehicles, the air would be cleaner, people would be healthier, local economies would have more money in them, it would even be quieter and more pleasant to live in this city.
It is very hard to defend the continued use of cars as a major transportation option for city dwellers. They are expensive, loud, inefficiency, unhealthy, politically dangerous (oil wars, and money spent to protect oil over seas), bad for the environment, dangerous to children, dangerous to the operators, make motorists unhappy, and make our shred public roads operate poorly.
Its time to abandon the single occupancy automobile in favor of better and easier options. We need to move to better and more efficient public transportation, walking, shared car use (zip car), bike share programs, denser and more innovative city planning, and yes cycling.
Cars are killing us in a 100 different ways, and making us miserable in the process. Lets stop this madness, get on your bike, and get out there!
Tags: cars are big and dumb, like seriously why is this so hard to grasp, rant, ride your goddamn bike people
Posted in advocacy | 5 Comments »
You wouldn’t know it from watching people use the streets in this town, but most people have a strong desire to NOT be annoying. They will self censor, keep their views to themselves, and in general try to get along with their fellow human. For the most part this works out pretty well, and most people are actually pleasant and good folks. However there are some times when being annoying is not only a good thing but can save your life.
Specifically when riding your bike. I have written at length about what a door zone bike lane is, and how to ride in them. If I think a bike lane is just too small, or (more likely) if someone has parked too far into the bike lane, I will ride further to the left, sometimes well into the car lane.
This, to put it mildly, is very annoying to some drivers. They have to slow down, move over, there is honking. Frankly I feel for them, poor things. I sometimes keep them from getting to that next red light by several seconds… I don’t want to annoy anyone, but I will without hesitation. At least two times last week I was riding down a busy street when I heard the sound no cyclist wants to hear, the “krrchiss” of a finely crafted car door opening right in front of you. Twice last week careless car drivers opened their doors RIGHT (like inches) in front of me. Had I been riding far to the right like a “polite” cyclists, I would have had one of two choices, scream and hit the door, or hit the door and then scream. I could have also swerved into the travel lane and been run over…so I guess three choices.
Instead I calmly kept riding, because I was well outside the area that door was going to open. I was safe, sound and happy. Sure the car driver next to me might have been a little annoyed that they had to move over 2 feet, and slow down (there is always a red light ahead of you anyway, so slowing down just saved them some gas), but I wasn’t laying broken and bloody on the side of the road.
Its a pretty good trade off, I annoy drivers just a little, and in return I don’t get any broken bones or missing teeth. Everyone keeps on going happily, the
idiot carless driver opening their door doesn’t get sued, or have to deal with the trauma of my blood all over them, and we all get to where we are going safe and sound. The maximum good for the most people.
This strategy also protects you from the many (many) pedestrians who seem to want to walk out into the street from between parked cars. So get out there and annoy drivers (just a little) in order to ensure your own safety. They might honk, they might even rev their engines as they pass, but so what, your safety is more important than their convenience. Overcome that natural tendency to be nice, and take the space on the road you need in order to be safe. And always remember bike lanes are to keep cars out, not to keep bikes in, if you need more space take it!
One Last thing: It is THE DRIVERS responsibility to NOT open their door if ANYONE is coming (pedestrian, cyclists, other drivers), the legal responsibility is on the person exiting the vehicle, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t take an interest in your own safety as a cyclist
Tags: annoy, do it, rant
Posted in advocacy, bostonbiker, education | 16 Comments »
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-hominid 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)
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.
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
Tags: rant, silly people writing silly things on the internet
Posted in bostonbiker | 17 Comments »