Well the calm of this sunny April day did not last long. Bear hours after publication of what we thought was going to be perfectly harmless op-ed criticizing bicycles and bike readers in cities, comments, scathing and otherwise, came cascading into the editorial offices of World Streets and our open Facebook Group page at http://www.facebook.com/worldstreets. And within hours the following slipped in over the transom from cyclist Ezra Goldman over at “On our own two wheels”. Let's hear what he has to say.
10 Reasons why I really hate cars (and drivers) in cities
WorldStreets today posted an anonymous email that came to Eric Britton’s inbox under the title “Ten reasons I really hate bicycles (and cyclists) in cities“. I am very happy that Eric printed it as it shows what we are up against. The following is my response (best read after you read the original). I’ve essentially just swapped the words “bicycle” with the word “car” throughout (plus a few minor revisions). The words I changed are in bold. It turns out cyclists and car drivers really feel quite similar at the end of the day.
The point of view of those who ride bicycles is not being taken into account by the public authorities as they flood our cities with cars all over the place.
Well, first of all, cars were all supposed to be out of here by now. It is extremely irritating that after all we have spent and done to make our cities safe for people that cars are still out there clogging the streets. This is not right.
The machines themselves are not modern. I personally find them ugly, weak, unnecessarily overpowered . . . excessively macho if you will.
They get in the way of our bicycles and make riders like myself (all riders that is) nervous. They distract us and cause accidents. That costs us real money and kills us. Which we also don’t like.
If you can believe it, there are cities that have spent the last 100 years taking away street space intended for people and converting it to car use. This is insane and reactionary. We cannot allow it to continue.
They are even starting to take up perfectly good park spaces. And yet we all know that plentiful (and preferably easily accessible) parks and green spaces hold the key to the successful city.
I do not like car drivers. They always take the moral high ground. They are uppity. They do not know their place. I find them wanton, aggressive and threatening. It is a source of fear that I am not separated and protected from them by much of anything.
They are a menace to me when I am trying to walk the short distances I have to cover by foot once I have parked my bike. They are very dangerous.
They look like garbage. Have you ever seen thousands of cars parked in some kind of public space?
Fortunately the car industry is losing ground in terms of its economic and political reach, so the day will go to bikes. More bikes.
Finally, did you know this? They don’t even pay for all the deaths, pollution, and public space they take up. Now that’s just not right.
I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! I hope you are mad too and ready to do something about it. We need to get together and fight this menace.
Author’s note: The earliest predecessor to the car was developed in 1672 but the vehicle most would consider to be the “first car” was designed by Karl Benz in the 1880s. Bicycles were designed in the 1800s. The current “safety bicycle” design, which is basically what we ride today, was developed in the 1880s. In other words, both are technically equally old. Therefore, I deem it legitimate to term both of them “not modern”.
If we are to truly move forward in this debate, we will need to move beyond vindictive hate mail towards each other and find real common ground beyond our mutual dislike for each other.
About the author
Ezra Goldman got a BA in anthropology at Reed College, a master’s in city planning at MIT and is presently a PhD Student at the University of Copenhagen. He is particularly passionate about driving the future of sustainable urban mobility, with a particular focus on bicycles and shared use vehicle systems. His blog “On our own two wheels” is an experimental collaborative blog where the readers are also its contributors. It aims to serve as an enabler to connect urban bicyclists from all corners of the world to share their personal experiences in an informal manner. The grand aspiration of the blog is to get at least one contribution from each country in the world. (Maybe you should get in touch with your article.)
About the author of the original article:
Rumors have swirled about concerning the identity of the author, if any, of today's original bike appreciation piece. It has even been suggested that World Streets was the victim or (or perhaps the perpetrator) of a hoax. That is not kind. But under this pressure we can do nothing but buckle, so I am now obliged to reveal the name and identity of the author: Don Carleone.
Now the fact is that we do hear from the Don from time to time, and as you can see in this article in Grist which dates back to March 2001 -- http://www.grist.org/article/britton-earthcarfree/P5 - this is not the first time that the Don has shared with us his thoughts about transport, society and economy. He is one person that seems to understand that there is real money to be made in new mobility. Now if we can only get that message out.
The editor Print this article