Plastic Road Cycling

It’s almost a cliche by now, Anicca, or impermanence, is one of the three marks of existence.

“The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impermanence]

Despite this being a pretty obvious idea, many people say phrases which show a complete denial or ignorance of this simple concept. Here are a few:

1. The roads were made for cars.

2. San Diego is too spread for cycling to be “practical”.

3. Careful what you wish for; if we make bad infrastructure, we’re going to be stuck with it for a long time.

Let’s examine these foolish phrases one by one.

First of all regaring how the roads were designed: assuming that the roads were made for cars assumes that the roads of San Diego are finished forever.

In reality the roads are constantly being changed: widened, resurfaced, and changed.

As the title implies, our entire city is not only plastic aka subject to change, but the change is inevitable. Even if we do nothing at all, the roads will crumble, and we’ll have the libertarian paradise where the road upkeep is zero, and the only “practical” way of getting around is by mountain bike.

Also, the statement is in the passive voice, which is often a red flag that the speaker is trying to hide something. In this case, the doer, the builder of the road is hidden with the phrase “roads were built.” This makes it seem as if we don’t have a choice, it gives the road construction a sense of impersonal inevitability rather than pointing out that humans have made the decisions for the current road design.

The next phrase, about San Diego being “spread out” is similar to the first. Again, it’s as if we came across this city built by aliens and we’re just doing the best to get by. Again, it also fails to acknowledge that humans made decisions.

It also fails to realize that San Diego is growing and we’re going to have to start living closer together because we are running out of empty space to pave over. Also, like other people have pointed out, the Ponzi scheme that is continuous flight into the country side is nearing its end.

Finally, this phrase denies the reality that people ride their bicycles for transportation all ready. Thus, this phrase is flat out wrong.

Finally, we get to a big sticking point for even cyclists who are in favor of infrastructure. It’s easier to fight it and wait until we get something perfect. Otherwise, if we get something bad, we’ll be stuck with it for decades.

This is not true. Any bad design can be shut down and eliminated in a day or so. Certain streets have all ready gone through a couple of iterations since I started blogging. Even sharrows, which I initially did not like, are getting wiped away and people are asking for something better.

So let’s all say it together, anicca: nothing is permanent. All is in flux. Let’s let our thinking, planning, and building reflect this simple fact that is ignored all the time.

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2 Responses to “Plastic Road Cycling”

  1. Steve A Says:

    Roads made for cars? In Washington State, beaches are part of the road system. Somehow, I don’t think Divine Providence made the beaches for cars.

  2. johdi Says:

    Exact, roads are constantly changed, upgraded etc. also in my country (the Netherlands). In the seventies we had many bike paths with tiles and very small (when cycling 2 abreast, you could not overtake!). They are mainly gone and replaced with other/better infrastructure. Also when a council made an not working as intended infrastructure, be it for cars or bicycles, people start complaining and in months or years you see an adjustment or upgrade. Councils also analyze constant road stats (how many cyclist, cars, accidents etc.) and if a road or junction is too dangerous/busy, are pressed to act, from drivers, cycle union, shopkepers or other pressure groups with an interest.
    NB my country is not special bike-friendly as I read sometimes in US-blogs, it is more every mode of transport is catered for, also cars, pedestrians, ships (canals, bridges), trams/buses (special lanes, trucks (special lanes sometimes or (in the morning) riding on the pavement!)

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