Bike Month Woes
May is “Bike Month,” according to the League of American Bicyclists (not to mention the one year anniversary of this blog). I expected I’d be posting a lot more.
Yet, I’ve been away from the blog for longer than I’d intended, partly because I’ve been busy with another writing project and partly because I’ve been in something of a funk about the glacial pace of change in our deeply-rooted car culture (come to think of it, in light of the rapidity with which glaciers are melting due to climate change, we humans seem to be moving slower than glaciers).
Speaking of climate change, the signs are ominous, to say the least. Last week, scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory measured atmospheric CO2 at 400 parts per million (ppm), the highest level recorded in, like, literally a million years. The level of atmospheric CO2 was about 280 ppm at the beginning of the industrial revolution in the middle of the 19th century, and had not exceeded 300 ppm for the previous 800,000 years. In 1958, when modern measurement began, the level was 316 ppm. The scientists didn’t mince words about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from human activity (like, um, driving our millions of cars everywhere like there’s no tomorrow). As one of the scientists told the Los Angeles Times:
“The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to support clean-energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren.”
As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s evidence of a backlash against bike lanes in L.A., even though we need more of them (as well as a substantial expansion of public transit) so people have realistic alternatives to the car. First, the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce has been orchestrating a campaign to stop the installation of bike lanes on Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock, painting pictures of apocalyptic traffic jams and blaming bike lanes instead of cars. Next, the L.A. Times editorialized against the green bike lanes on Spring Street downtown, repeating the discredited argument of location managers for film production companies that green bike lanes “ruin” L.A. as a film location. I’ve used those green bike lanes and they provide a safe space for bicycles on that busy downtown street.
As if that weren’t enough, I’ve had a series of extremely frustrating arguments with some of my friends and members of my family about the need to break out of the automobile-centered culture. They agree in principle but they refuse to act on this principle.
All of which reinforces for me the seriousness of the death grip that the automobile has on this culture … indeed, on this planet and its future. It also makes it harder to stay optimistic, which I try to do in this space. Hence, my absence.
Time for a bike ride. It always makes me feel better.