Wednesday, May 12, 2010

From CNN Living: Cyclists, motorists clash

Here's an interesting piece (called Bicycle Wars in the URL) quoting cyclists and motorists from here and there around this Great Land. The narrative begins in Brookline MA, where Tamar grew up, and ends in Denver, where we live and ride today.

Note the map, highlighting Bicycling Magazine's best cycling cities -- all are in the northern half of the country except Tucson. Perhaps a six-month riding season -- unless you're a die-hard -- adds points to your town's cycling-friendliness score.

Ah, Tucson. Tamar and I believe that Tucson's best efforts are aimed at lobbying and courting these awards, not at actualizing or enhancing rubber-on-the-road bike-friendliness. We looked carefully, as you'd imagine, for cycling friendliness in Tucson during the years we lived there.

You could say we looked under every rock, redneck and smug retired contractor from Omaha, yearning as we did for the fabled Tucson bike lanes paved with high-consciousness motorist gold. We came up empty-handed. Riding in groups was iffy; riding solo was just too scary.

The car is king everywhere in the US, and given our mentality as a nation, perhaps that's as it should be or must be. But that unthinking reliance on motor vehicles is worst, we feel, in new America, in areas where almost no one wanted to live before the advent of air conditioning.

It must be bicycle award season, huh? I wonder what these fetes are supposed to accomplish.... Do I want to pick up and move to one of the lauded cities? Would you?


Khal said...

This stuff gets way too spun up and then is negatively reinforcing, like so much of the crap on the Internet. Everyone needs to take a chill pill.

Khal said...

From the CNN link: "Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe," Carter Wood, a senior adviser at the National Association of Manufacturers, told The New York Times.

That is one of the most deliberately and blindingly foolish things one could say about transportation. Treating bicycles as equal to motor transportation does not mean equal costs or equivalent usage. You need a truck to move freight. You don't need a Freightliner to schlep your ass and your lunch box to the cube farm. Its really so simple that someone should call Mr. Wood on his prattle.

Adding bicycle infrastructure to many areas would cost pennies on the dollar and that is documented by Todd Litman ( )and others who are starting to put cost/benefit tags on the effectiveness of these facilities. That is a good thing, since we always seem to be combatting these scattershot criticisms.

As I mentioned to someone this morning, one has to do the math: how much does it really cost to have a single-occupant car driven culture? Pollution? Road construction and maintenance costs? Keeping the sea lanes open for those supertankers and cleaning up the mess when they break? Oil well blowouts? Sedentary behavior based disease? I suspect if you added it all up, the costs of our single-tool transportation toolbox, i.e. that car culture, is quite staggering. And even more of a catastrophe to our economy than simply adding a few friggin bike lanes to where we need to go. For example, a college campus.

Tucson said...

I think you guys ought to come back and check out Tucson.

The city is getting better. There is still a big focus on bike lanes, but the city bike/ped program manager is working hard on bike boulevards and cycle tracks, which would encourage people who don't feel safe to ride more.

The drivers seem to be catching on too. I haven't been yelled at in over a year, which I think is pretty impressive.

We still have a long way to go, but I am starting to believe Tucson is worthy of the bike friendly status.