Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Makings lives better—by making them worse.

Will future Marin rush hours look like 1970s Beijing?
 By Kristian Roggendorf
So-called “liberal” utopianism results in a society that has neither liberty nor blissful living. Case in point: the ongoing car versus bike wars in Portland. While the civil war has calmed down a bit lately in the Rose City, it appears to be heating up elsewhere around the country.
Over a decade ago, I watched with amazement as Randall O’Toole, free market transportation guru, described the stated intention of urban planners in Portland to create Los Angeles-style traffic congestion in our fair city to “encourage” people to use mass transit. Even at LA levels of congestion, mass transit ridership doubled—to an entire 6% of commuters. That kind of sterling logic has brought the narrowing of major arterials, the creation of one-way streets, and other such “calming” efforts to the issue of bike transit. 
If you can’t see the sarcasm in the previous sentences, you might also fail to see the absurdity of the fact that now, the utopian dream of planners is to re-create 1970s Beijing—with thousands of bicyclists grimly huffing to work in rain or dust—in the middle of our 21st century American cities.
Ed Braddy, American Thinker writer, lays out the nonsensical practice of “proving” the superiority of cycling (no matter one’s particular disability, apparently) to the car in what he calls “these phony bike versus car contests.” One such contest, this time presented by folks who are presumably not as high on bikes as the local gearhead set, pits a car against a bike in Gainesville, Florida. I lived in Florida for about 6 years, and visited Gainesville all of once. “Oppressive”—a term I have only seen on TV weather reports in the citrus state—doesn’t begin to do justice to the notion of Gainesville in July. It is at least a hundred miles inland in all directions, surrounded by swamps (University of Florida ain’t called the Gators for nothing), and typically breezeless. The “test” pits two actual businessmen against each other—meetings to go to, errands to run—to show how absurd it is to think that bicycles are a valid commuting option for the vast majority of people, irrespective of their physical condition.
Truth be told, I’m in favor of bike lanes on almost all roads.  The safety afforded by such lanes is obvious. But to leap from that obvious point to suggesting that bikes can be anything other than a very occasional means of travel for most people is either completely unrealistic, or achievable only through mass coercion and radical and draconian punishments. God bless and keep safe those folks who do ride their bikes wherever they can. But asking everyone to do so is in line with the most myopic of totalitarian impulses, and in no way merits the term “liberal” anything.
Kristian Roggendorf is a Portland, Oregon based attorney

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