Wednesday, June 24, 2015

. . . and when they came for the four-star restaurant.

A few years back my wife and two other moms came together to oppose the closing of Jefferson Ave at Cleveland as part of the Jefferson Bikeway. Their attempts to stop the street closure led to the exposure of a million wasted dollars by the City, the fact the City was employing a “Bike Coordinator,” the realization that the City had ceded its authority to determine the best configuration of its street to a private bike advocacy group, and on and on. What did they accomplish? Well, Jefferson is still open at Cleveland. The City did blow the money on crooked lines, painted over bike stencils, concrete loopty-loops and a Close Encounters of the Pedestrian Kind light show at the Jefferson/Cleveland and Jefferson/Cretin crosswalks. Back when we were fighting this, allies were few and far between. Some came to meetings, but most said things like, “well, I like to bike,” or “I never drive on Jefferson anyway.”

But now? Well, well, well. Everyone is up in arms because they have come for the parking at the four-star restaurant I have not eaten at since it was a 3.2 joint with Taco-Thursdays. Now I am the one who’s not excited. Not because I don’t care, but because the game is over. The good folks who own businesses along Cleveland and their patrons are arguing the wrong issue. It’s not about parking on Cleveland, or bicyclists who disobey laws, or increased traffic on Cleveland or outside bike advocates agitating in our neighborhood or taxpayer money wasted on bikes and not spent on roads. It’s not about any of those things. It’s bigger than even the fact the City has a Comprehensive Bicycle Plan.

This is about how the City sees its role vis-a-vis its citizens. The City keeps telling us that bikes are part of its multi-modal transportation plan. Well, how does that work? If we split transportation into motor vehicles, public transport (bus, light rail, cab, Uber) and bike, how would the numbers look? Just for an argument let’s say:

90% motor vehicle,
9.99% public transport and
less than .01% bike.

My numbers look to be pretty close. These numbers are at least as legitimate as any numbers being thrown around by bike-lane advocates. Now I know you’re saying, “but I know people who bike to work and the store.” Okay. So do I. I knew a Federal Judge who biked in from the Western suburbs to downtown Minneapolis during the summer months. That’s one. But if you look at folks who do this, they do it some days of the week, they do it some months of the year. And of course they own a car, which explains bike racks. Now you may be able to find one guy who bikes everywhere, every day, all year. Well, you found your less than .01%. I'm guessing you could find one person who jogs to work and one who rollerskates, but that makes neither a statistically significant mode of transportation.

How does the City see its role? Well, I’m guessing based on spending about:

50% motor vehicle,
25% public transport and
25% bike.

I’m guessing some at the City would like to see:

10% motor vehicle,
60% public transport and
30% bike.

And bike-lane advocates? Well . . .:

100% bike, bike, bike, bike . . . whooh, sorry I got on a roll there.

So why is this a question of the role of the City vs. the Citizen? Chesterton says, “Those who hold the modern superstition that the State can do no wrong will be bound to accept such a thing as right.” G.K. Chesterton, The Well and the Shallows. The City’s elected officials and employees hold this superstition in spades.

Now for the important part . . . ahem . . . listen up!

The Citizen makes a private decision on how to travel; by car, by bus, by Uber or by bike. The sphere of this choice is a private choice made by a private citizen who buys, maintains and insures the car, who pays for a monthly bus pass or who equips himself out for winter biking. A private decision.

The important question is why does the City think its role is to interfere in people’s transportation decision? Why do they see it as their choice and not yours? Their sphere and not yours? The Citizens have decided and bikes come in at less than .01%. It’s time for them to recognize that and scrap the Comprehensive Bike Plan, move all bike issues over to Parks & Recreation, remove all bike lanes from arterial streets, pave and plow the streets, draft a Comprehensive Motor Vehicle Plan and return parking to the freeborn Citizens. Then, finally, the City would be following its Citizens and not trying to control them. That is what is important. Superstitions are hard to overcome and the superstition that the City can do no wrong is so ingrained I see no hope.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, gotta realize that the current status quo of ubiquitous cars and minivans is not a result of personal choice but of government intervention.