Take a breath and count to three. Or in this case, somewhere around 170,000... I think I've calmed down enough to comment now.
The interwebs are buzzing about John Mc Carron's op-ed piece; Chicago's War on Cars. Some cyclists and motorists are engaged in the usual and predictable battles over who belongs on the road. Others are actually debating facts in a very civil manner. I encourage everyone to read through all of the comments.
I'm a cycling advocate, so my position should surprise no one. For the record, I don't own a Castelli Sorpasso bib tight cycling suit and I suspect there isn't a single city bike commuter who wears one. Performance cycling gear such as this is excellent for when one's heart rate is revved up into Zone 5 in a race or training ride, but it's not necessary for getting from point A to point B. Just thought I'd shoot that red herring out of the barrel...
Evidently, we're a country that likes to wage war on, well, just abouteverything. Nations with different forms of government. Terrorists. Drugs. Cancer. Women's health. Civil Rights. Christmas. If we frame something as a war, there can only be the righteous crusader and the despicable, dehumanized enemy. Or the indignant victim...
Is this really a war on cars or an honest assessment of a city's transportation needs for the future? Can a city like Chicago continue to function while levels of air pollution and congestion continue to rise? Should we dismiss, out of hand, any solutions that might make some of us physically or financially uncomfortable?
Seems to me, there was a time in this country when a war effort called for everyone to make some form of sacrifice for the greater good.
This isn't a war on cars. Framing it this way makes motorists out to be thevictims - a vulnerable group oppressed by a tyrannical government. Rahm The Terrible hates us for our freedom of mobility...
This is a war on declining living conditions. It's a war against air pollution and the health issues toxic emissions exacerbate for everyone. It's a war against congestion and all the precious time, effort, and energy it wastes for everyone. It's not a war against anything other than the negative consequences of our own selfishness. And Mc Carron makes it sound like cyclists are the only ones with egos...
We've seen the enemy and the enemy is us!
Rather than continuing on in our tax subsidized stupor, wearing out the roads, bitching about gridlock, and wondering why we always feel stressed out or seem to be putting on weight, we might want to ask ourselves "could I be doing something differently to solve this problem?" What might I sacrifice - other than my tax dollars - to help win this war against the negative effects of air pollution and congestion?
Can I ride the el or take the bus instead of driving? Can I take Metra in from the 'burbs? Can I walk a couple extra blocks? What might make this faster and easier for me to do?
Can I ride my bike on neighborhood trips? Is bike commuting an option for me? Would I take advantage of a bike share program if I felt safer riding in a protected or dedicated bike lane? What might make this a better option for me?
Gabe Klein has offered a blueprint for relieving congestion, reducing emissions, and making the city safer for those who choose to walk, bicycle, and take advantage of public transportation. It deserves scrutiny, like every other policy proposal. But it's a forward looking proposal that no longer ignores the elephant in the room - the negative consequences of automobiles.
"But who among us has the time, stamina or ego to ride a bicycle to work?" Mc Carron asks.
Apparently, not him. He hasn't even considered that a bike could be a faster way to commute. Even if riding a bike took a little longer, he doesn't acknowledge that it would save him time on a machine at his health club that ironically, simulates the health benefits of riding an actual bicycle. In a double irony, he would develop the stamina he's missing...
I firmly believe that bicycles are a solution for nearly everyone. Riding a bike gets you out in the fresh air, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide and emitting sweat instead of harmful carbon gases. Bicycling strengthens your heart and helps fight metabolic syndrome. It can help you lose weight. It can also relieve stress while letting you feel like a kid again.
More bikes on city streets means less cars, less congestion, and less air pollution. A better bicycling infrastructure makes it possible for more people to choose an alternative that seeks to solve the problem, not perpetuate it. It's money well spent on everyone's future.
In this war, you're not being asked for your blood or your tears, only your sweat.
Are you willing to make this personal sacrifice to fight air pollution and congestion or would you rather just pay for it with your hard earned cash?