Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Problem that Wasn’t There.

The Problem that Wasn’t There.

MINUTES by Stephen Kelly
October 19, 2011

The Problem that Wasn’t There.

In her letter to the September 28, 2011 Villager, Barb Thoman, Executive Director of TLC said, “what kind of a street will make parents willing to send their 11-year-old son or daughter to soccer practice on bike or on foot?  What kind of street will encourage novice bicyclists - perhaps a mom and a small child - to make a trip across St. Paul?  What kind of street will be safe for an 80-year-old to walk to church?”[1]

Well Ms. Thoman, all of them.

For 157 years Saint Paulites have figured out how to cross a street without TLC’s help.  In fact, Saint Paulites are vigorous walkers, joggers, bikers and skateboarders.  At all hours of the early morning, day and late night you will see our good citizens taken to their sidewalk, street and alley.  Walking their kids, walking the dog or just out to get some fresh air and talk over the day’s activities with their spouse.  These active Saint Paulites have coexisted with cars for at least the last 90 years (and horses and carriages before that!).

We Saint Paulites also love our cars.  Look at what University Avenue used to be when it was the home of the car dealerships and cars cruised up and down it going to Porky’s and parking at Monkey Wards before the fun police shut them down.  Now we have the choo-choo.  Drive up and down Snelling Avenue when a car show is at the State Fair and you will see families parked on coolers and nylon strap lawn chairs enjoying the tricked-out masterpieces as the old beauties rumble by.

Look at what for 87 years has been the quite stalwart neighbor to all Saint Paulites, the oldest Ford plant still in operation where cars, trucks, and during WWII tanks, have steadily rolled off the line.

Cars and trucks on the road, walkers and bikers on the sidewalk, airplanes overhead and the distant sound of a train clacking down the tracks.  This is what city living is about.  We all co-exist because we are all car drivers, walker and bikers.  What and where is the problem?  Or maybe better said; why does someone think there is a problem to be solved?

Years ago, the great economist Friedrich von Hayek was asked why so many intellectuals were skeptical about and even hostile to capitalism.  Dr. Hayek answered, “Well, I’ve been puzzling about it for a long time . . . I think it’s . . . an intellectual attraction of a system you can deliberately control, which is fascinating to the intellectual.”

Surly the “intellectuals” at TLC are not attracted to a system of “deliberate control?”  They only want to make the driving public (that’s all of us) change our driving route to avoid the Jefferson Roadblock every day, times every driver, forever.  Fascinating.

To do this controlling TLC created a problem that was not there, “Bryce can’t cross Cleveland on his Cervelo bike at Jefferson!”  Then they propose a disconnected solution, “we must throw a roadblock up and stop all motor traffic!”

But why?  If there real goal was about biking, hey, you got your bikeway.  There are lanes and little bikes on the signs and sharrows, etc.  You won.  As D-Day said in Animal House, “War’s over man, Wormer dropped the big one.”  Why is this piece, the stopping of motor traffic, so very important?

In TLC’s own words, what they are after is to "[d]ecrease motor vehicle trips . . . [m]aximize bicycle use and walking for transportation resulting in mode shift out of motor vehicles [and to] . . . contribute to ongoing shift in attitudes and travel behavior."  Translate:  you get out of your car.

And what happens when TLC “mode shifts” us out of our cars?  Remember that when you are sending your 11-year-old son or daughter to practice on bike or on foot when it’s -20°F or an 80-year-old is walking to church in 20” of snow.  As for the novice bicyclists, stick to the sidewalk until the training wheels come off.

The real question is, what kind of street will Saint Paulites have when TLC is successful mode shifting us and we can’t drive our own cars on them?
[1] One can’t help notice the similarity between Ms. Thoman’s list and a list that appeared in the Sept. 15 Minutes,

No comments:

Post a Comment