17 September 2022

Why Don't They Include Bicycles?

One of the more interesting (to me, anyway) ironies of my life is that I often ride in or through Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, the site of the 1964-65 World's Fair. 

My now-vague memories of having attended with my parents and younger siblings (whose memories are probably even vaguer than mine, if they have any at all!) include visions of flying cars and sidewalks that weren't because, well, people didn't walk:  They were conveyed on belts to their destinations.

It was a time when progress was depicted as inevitable, limitless and always aided and abetted by technologies that made our daily lives less arduous--and took ever-greater quantities of resources.  Nuclear energy would be the power source of the future because advances in its technology would render it "too cheap to meter." In those days, "sustainable" was not part of planners' vocabularies.

Sometimes I wonder just how much we've moved on from such thinking.  In his article for Next City, Nicolas Collignon points out that even as cities like New York  Paris Milan and Bogota invest in bike lanes and other incentives to trade four wheels and one pedal for two wheels and two pedals, too much of today's planning is based on such innovations as self-driving cars and flying delivery drones. At the same time, according to Collignon, too many planners neglect the role bicycles can play in making cities more livable, sustainable and affordable.

So why do planners have such a blind spot for our favorite means of transportation and, well, just having fun?  Well, since you, dear readers, are smart people, you probably have the answer:  money.  Specifically, where the money comes from:  automotive and high-tech companies, which have much deeper pockets than any in the bicycle industry.  

Photo by Francois Mori

Of course, those auto and tech companies--even the ones that tout themselves as "green"--have ties to the fossil fuel and military (given our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I cannot call it "defense") industries.  That may be a reason why those planners have similar blind spots to the effects clean-looking technologies and "cleaner" automobiles actually have--or why they bought Uber and Lyft's sales pitch that their services would reduce traffic.  If you live in almost any major city, you can see how much that prophecy has come to pass. 

I also can't help but to think that those companies--and, sometimes, the urban planners themselves--are, openly or covertly, stoking drivers' resentments toward cyclists.

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