Here are two things you should go read right now:
I’m not going to comment directly on these except to say that each is important in its own way. Instead, I want to use these as a starting point to begin dealing with perception, reality, and desire — especially my own.
Just the other day I was riding through downtown in the early evening. The weather was pleasantly cool. Traffic was cooperative. I felt myself drawn into the energetic hum of life on the urban street — all the more so because I was heading “home” from having taken a load of stuff to my new loft, my new home. These streets will no longer be a place I visit, a bicycle destination. This will be home very soon — my neighborhood, my streets.
And the thought just smacked me like a helmet striking pavement: Why the hell do I bother being a so-called “bicycle advocate” seeing as how much grief and pain and frustration it has caused me (or I have caused myself)? Wow. Yes. Those have been the rewards of late. There. I admit it.
(If you’re wondering about grief and pain and frustration, then perhaps you did not read those two essays. Read them now.)
One thing is for sure: My having started Carbon Trace has led me to whole new worlds of understanding and new circles of friends. I would change none of that. But a part of me longs to just ride my bicycle and have it mean nothing more than I’m going from point A to point B in a way that’s… oooops. Did you catch it? “In a way that’s” indicates a value-statement is on the way — a cultural evaluation, a political assessment, a social pronouncement, an economic analysis, a persuasive assertion. Go on. Just keep listing all the academic disciplines that examine all the ways that we value the world and express those evaluations.
I’m not arguing that I can’t turn off the academic part of me. I’m saying that none of us do anything just to do it (as in my discipline of rhetoric I claim that none of us say anything just to say it). This is not a rational choice assertion (that school of thinking was DOA). We are certainly purpose-driven creatures, but our purposes are as varied as the snowflakes and not always rational.
My purpose (as I expressed it at the very first STAR Team meeting I attended): Ensure my ability to use a bicycle as basic transportation as an expected and respected part of traffic. You may recognize that last clause from I Am Traffic. While those words did not come out of my mouth, it is what I meant. Notice: I did not say I wanted to ensure anyone else’s ability to do so. That would rather naturally flow from protecting my own interests. And, as I have always made clear, it would flow from people driving their bicycles as I do — as a vehicle driver properly integrated into the system of traffic and following all the rules that create the system.
I am not special. I do not require special treatment or special facilities. I require only three things: 1) a culture of respect, 2) street engineering that allows me to follow the rules of safe movement, and 3) proper enforcement of the rules.
If you are also such a bicyclist, then I want to know you. I want to help you. I want to learn from you. I want to have a beer with you
If you want to be such a bicyclist, then I want to know you. I want to help you. I want to learn from you. I want to have a beer with you
If you are a bicyclist who needs special facilities of a kind that interrupt the rules of safe movement (thereby making my life more difficult), then I’d prefer you just keep driving a car. We can still have a beer, but we’ll speak of other matters.