Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bicycle Licenses: Green Transit FAIL

With no ado, please read this quick letter to the editor on the NYT re: the ongoing debate over bicycle lanes in the Big Apple.

Ok, this is stupid. Any longtime readers of this blog should know by now that transit is one of my pet peeves. Automobiles are stupid, expensive, inefficient machine systems, the hidden costs of which have only been made clearer to me since I began reading Ivan Illich's "Tools for Conviviality." And, having immigrated to the Twin Cities in 2008 - the best metro region in the United States for biking - I naturally have nothing but respect for the alternative, low-cost, low-tech, high-input transit tool. Bicycles require less infrastructure. Physical or bureaucratic. Anyone can pick one up, learn to ride it, and be much more mobile than a pedestrian, while not ever having to stop for an oil change.

And they don't cause potholes.

So even the mere mention suggestion that cyclists be "required to wear vests with visible identity numbers," especially as "more revenue for the city," is infuriating. This would de-democratizes what is virtually an equal-access tool. And those are fucking hard to come by in this corporate-dominated oligarchy. You may as well require licenses to buy a god-damn screwdriver.

We ought to be moving away from cars, not attempting to make bicycles more like them. Cars are dangerous. Accidents involving bicycles are rarely, if ever, fatal - unless they involve automobiles. Bicycles are for people who prefer to opt-out of the institutionalized mess composed of insurance companies, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and car dealerships. There's no defensible reason for litigating this form of transit.

Why for the love of God do New Yorkers even own cars. why. why. why.

If I had that kind of access to mass transit, I would sell my car. And I was raised on car culture, suckled on the oily teat of Southern California. There was a time when I identified very strongly with the freeway lifestyle ... until I've come to see how much waste it creates.

More and more I am coming to see Minnesota and the Twin Cities as a shining bastion of progressivism, one of the few states where the slash-and-burn budget experiments are failing to take root. Our economy is relatively stable and slowly recovering, there is a fair division of labor between NGOs/nonprofits and government, a high literacy rate, thriving immigrant communities, high literacy rates, grassroots culture, wide expanses of wild space and a responsible hunter culture, and a strong respect for the environment that springs from both conservative and liberal camps. And not to mention a strong, intelligent radical layer that is rarely reactionary (with some exceptions).

As for Mr. I-was-almost-murdered-by-a-bicycle, automobiles often have front and back lights, and "noise-emitting warning device[s]," yet they maim and murder far more people than bicycles. Had he been hit by a car, he wouldn't even be alive to make the complaint. There is still no substitute for vigilance, and no amount of legislation is going to force him to look both ways before crossing the goddamn street.

Maybe he could try unplugging his goddamn iPod from his head when he's out on the town.

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