Tuesday, November 8, 2011

War! What is it good for?

Like many folks out there, I imagine that the sense of purpose, the thrill of a steep hill, and the bristle of wind noise, like a stiff brush, scrubbing ever louder as your speed increases can all help to create a perfect moment, even a thoughtless few minutes, while cycling to work on these blustery Fall days. I love this feeling. Not just on Fall days, but at all times of the year, these serene moments of quite, glimpses of water shimmering, or smiles from passing pedestrians keep me motivated to jump on my bicycle everyday. And then there are other days however, when you feel like you're under attack: literally dodging salvos of speeding vehicles and deflecting insults from harried drivers. It's as if there is a war going on, and it's cyclists defending themselves from every other possible form of transportation; slow moving city busses, buzzing motorcyclists, and irate car commuters all have a taste for blood (even the rollerbladers have taken sides, I imagine; they have sharpened blades, easily retrieved from their fanny packs, like a prison shiv, ready for a quick kidney puncture on the bike path like two inmates passing in a crowded hallway). The only thing left is for the rear windows of right-hooking minivans to be painted with outstretched arms and a flashing neon font that says "Come at me, Bro".

So who started this war? How can we negotiate a lasting peace, you might be asking yourself?

Let's start by considering that all transportation is multimodal. After even the most resolute driver parks his car downtown, he has to walk into the office building, right? Those committed buss riders? they have to walk to get to and from the bus stops. People drive to get to the light rail stations, people bicycle to get to the rideshare lots, people carpool to get to the football games, people skateboard to get to the subway, people take a bus to get to the airport, and on and on and on. We use many forms of transportation; let's get over that. Now, let's build a transportation network that incorporates equally many different types of transportation and lets encourage people to use those forms that use less energy and create less pollution. Let's create an integrated transportation system. Why is this so hard?

Here is a concept video that shows how something like this might work. Take a look and try to ignore the smugness and the funny sounding voices.

mo - mobility for tomorrow from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.

My biggest criticism of this is how heavily it relies on the so-called "smart phone" computers. Afterall, a large part of the bus riding demographic are the poor people who can't afford a car and I am here to testify that not everyone has a smart phone, or even a cell phone (or even a government ID for that matter--since it is election day). But otherwise I am really excited about this type of thinking. Also, I do recognize that the video is very Your-o-pee-'in. I know the chances of an actual US soccer mom tossing her kids, and a bag of groceries, into a pedal powered wheel barrow are nonexistent. But maybe if we somehow got some of the Budweiser clydesdales', or the Coca-Cola polar bears' kind of marketing money into changing commuters' behavior, don't you think people might respond?

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