Staying Together: Group Ride Etiquette, Conspicuous Bicycle Consumption, Institutional Memory of Small Groups
here may be snow on the ground, and the roads may still be narrow due to the plow-push along the sides, but there are still lots of people on bicycles commuting to work, doing errands, enjoying the sunshine even on days when the temperature is below freezing.
Times are truly changing. And here are three short posts – the first two about bicycle culture and the last about the need for small groups to find ways to remember their own history so that they can build on past efforts.
Group Ride Etiquette
Conspicuous Bicycling Consumption
Institutional Memory of Small Groups
Culture is us. It surrounds us, shapes our perceptions and beliefs. And it is also our collective creation. Its impact comes from our core biology as much as our psychological make up. It is part of the tide that shapes policies and carries us through history. And yet we are not just passive responders. We have a role and therefore a responsibility. As another new year begins, perhaps one of our resolutions should focus on how we contribute to the bottom-up processes that culminate in culture. Culture is political! As two commentators recently said:
“[Culture] is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change. Or to put it another way, political change is the final manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred. Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Major League Baseball debut preceded Brown v. Board of Education by seven years. Ellen DeGeneres’ coming-out on her TV sitcom preceded the first favorable court ruling on same-sex marriage by eight years.” (“Culture Before Politics,” by Jeff Chang & Brian Komar, The American Prospect, Jan/Feb. 2011)Read more
I must be counting on the seasonal spirit of goodwill; but this week’s postings take on two of the more controversial issues in the bicycling community: the impact of bike lanes and cycle tracks (near-road but physically separated or buffered bikeways) and the value of requiring that all cyclists wear helmets.
The first item (see below) is titled “Bike Lanes, Cycle Tracks, and Being On the Road”, the second, “Helmet Laws – Safety, Freedom, and Public Health”
I will say that while I’m pretty confident of my opinions on the first issue, I’m still working my way through the maze of evidence about the second. So while I will not enter into a rant- or insult-exchange with people who want to vilify me for my positions, I’m eager to hear what other people think.
Happy Holidays!Read more
Three short items in this week’s post:
1) Transforming Boston into Mayor Menino’s goal of a “World Class Bicycling City’ requires a multifaceted strategy. One action area: creating the kind of car-free safety zone that lets “ordinary” people feel it is safe to cycle. In addition to the creation of “cycle tracks” – bike lanes that are physically separated from moving traffic in some way, it is also possible to build on the example of Hub On Wheels and temporarily ban cars from some section of a street, or to create a off-road (perhaps “multi-use”) greenway paths.
2) In this dark well-bottom of the year, only lunatics don’t use lights on their bicycle. Of course, it’s what the law requires – but more importantly, it’s what survival requires. In fact, any cyclist riding the roads later than 4:30 that doesn’t wear bright (preferably yellow) outerwear covered with reflective tape should have their live insurance cancelled and their motives examined. But this begs the real controversy, worthy of several rounds of beer at your favorite spot – should bike lights blink or be steady?
3) Finally, as a former techie, I’m always interested in the latest ways to make our systems “smarter.” But even more, I’m impressed by the presence (or depressed by the absence) of a smartly-designed infrastructure beneath the electronic sensors….like priority bus lanes.Read more
In economics, “efficiency” only refers to the allocation of capital. Unregulated markets that allow investors to seek the highest profit lead to the largest overall amount of capital growth, exclusive of any other societal effects. It implies that capital growth is its own reward and perhaps the most important goal.
Most of us have a broader and more humane definition of “efficiency” – not only accomplishing more with less but doing so in a way that is beneficial to both the system and those it affects – long-term sustainability, both individual and social well-being. And this conception of efficiency blends into an even more powerful concept: equity. Not that every one is or has exactly the same but that the disparities are minimized – that we accept that we are a community that rises or falls together. This type of equity requires acknowledging a collective responsible for maintaining a balance between providing freedom for individual creativity and security for everyone, for being accountable to contribute our proportional share of resources for the common good in exchange for having our needs taken into account.Read more
Without a struggle, there can be no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. — Frederick Douglas
Power is the ability to define phenomena and make it act in a desired manner. – Huey Newton
Thanksgiving can be just what its name describes: a moment to gather with loved ones to express thanks for the good in our lives. We may feel that our circumstances depend on our own efforts, or on our ability to stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us, or on the influence of whatever form of chance or higher power we may choose to believe in. Regardless, it is an opportunity to appreciate how much we have, whatever that is.Read more
Successful advocacy combines protest and partnership, acting as an outsider fighting something we oppose and acting as an insider working to shape official plans. Many of our most critical strategic and tactical decisions deal with when and how to do one or the other, or – more typically – how to weave the two together.
The big advantage of protest is that because you aren’t constrained by the problems of implementation you are more easily able to act as the spokesperson for higher ideals, as a proponent of a better vision of how things could be – which, when the political climate is particularly hostile, may be the most useful thing to do. Today, however, progressives are more likely to lean towards partnership than protest, which seems to have been taken over by the radical right-wing of American politics. Partnering with public officials give advocates greater access to the decision-making process, but at the cost of having to be “realistic” and satisfied with negotiating for what is possible under the current circumstances. Still, no matter how friendly the relationship between advocates and officials, there are three strategic tasks that people pushing for change have to do: mobilize political will, ensure that agencies have the needed resources and skills, and creating a climate of public acceptance needed for compliance and enforcement.Read more
Regular cycling keeps a person fit. Those of us who regularly commute or do errands zip along city streets feeling strong and healthy – even a bit smarter than the stuck-in-traffic drivers we pass – and safe so long as we pay careful attention to what’s going on around us.
But even though we may have the skills to avoid accidents in heavy traffic, there are circumstances where cycling may be dangerous to our health. We may not break our arms or necks, but we may damage our lungs, hearts, and even our brains.Read more
Probably no one fully understands all the intricacies of transportation funding decision-making. Federal law, regulations, and funding levels set the context – although those are all interactively influenced by the desires of and power relationships among key interest groups, as well as by the electoral pressures felt by elected officials. The same dynamic exists at the state level, with the political sphere extending from the state house both upward to federal allies and down to municipal leaders.Read more
The Three Legs of Transportation Reform: And Why MassDOT Has To Start Standing On At Least Two Of Them
The debates leading up to the passage of the 2009 Transportation Restructuring Act had three themes:
- Organizational & Operational Reform:
- Creating a unified transportation authority that took a systemic approach and ended the infantile (and wasteful) feuding among the Turnpike, Highway Department, MBTA, Regional Transit Authorities, Mystic Bridge, and other transportation agencies.
- Systemic Transformation:
- Begin transforming our car-centric, imported fossil-fuel dependent, polluting, obesity-enabling, and increasingly dysfunctional transportation system into something better able to help Massachusetts meet the challenges of the current century.
- Financial Stability:
- Ending the funding shortfalls that have left every part of our transportation system unable to maintain current infrastructure, provide appropriate customer service, or meet growing demand.