Thursday, August 27, 2009
American Bicycling - It's a Wilderness Out There
When roads are designed with an automobile-only mentality, the health of the citizenry suffers.
I live in what - geographically - would be an ideal walkable and bikeable neighborhood. My wife Vickie and I both teach at the university two blocks away. There are a dozen restaurants, a grocery store, the city zoo, three coffee shops, a variety of retail offerings, churches and several liquor stores within easy walking and biking distance from our house.
Problem is there are very few sidewalks and no designated bike lanes.
So people drive their cars. Everywhere.
I, however, refuse to bow to "autonationalism" - a term coined by architect/futurist Doug Michels to describe the romantic American ethos of automobile-only travel - and drive two blocks to the university like all of my neighbors do. So I walk or ride my bike on unfriendly terrain, including the there-and-back dash across a busy 4-lane state highway. Though it does get the blood pumping, I feel a bit like Lewis and Clark traveling without the benefit of "trail." Most of the time, I come out unscathed.
(Read a past newspaper column about the time I didn't.)
John Paul Frerer (18) from Tupelo, Mississippi wasn't so lucky. He was recently hit by a truck and killed while riding his bike on a public road in preparation for an upcoming triathlon.
The trouble with autonationalist roads - aside from the health disadvantages - is that they breed a mentality of complacency in drivers. The underlying assumption is that no one travels without a car, so why look out for them.
And then it's over.