I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I mean, I’ve always figured if you’re going to do something, why wait for the new year to do it? That said, the new year does enable us to look back on the previous year and set some goals for the coming year. Here are some thoughts as 2013 turns into 2014.
2013 was a year full of hope and frustration. Nationwide, bicycling for transportation has continued its upward trend. Just to name a few examples, San Francisco saw a 96% increase in bicycling mode share between 2006 and 2013, Chicago installed the first miles of protected bike lanes, and New York City launched its tremendously successful bike share program. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown finally signed a law mandating a 3-foot buffer when motorists pass bicyclists on the street, which is a good start. In Los Angeles, progress has been much slower, though new bike lanes have been installed from San Pedro to Eagle Rock and just last month LA installed its first protected bike lane in the 2nd Street tunnel. LA County, in consultation with Bike SGV (one of the area’s growing bike advocacy organizations), is drafting an ambitious new regional bike plan for the San Gabriel Valley that focuses on connecting bike access to transit hubs.
Unfortunately, the news was not all good in 2013. Motorists continued to kill pedestrians and cyclists at an alarming rate, and two of those deaths hit especially close to home for me. Last February, Cal Poly Pomona student Ivan Aguilar was struck and killed by an allegedly distracted driver while cycling on a campus road. Last summer 25-year-old Philip O’Neill was struck and killed on Del Mar Blvd. in Pasadena while riding together with a friend on what turned out to have been their first date. However both of these tragic, unnecessary deaths may yet spur positive change at Cal Poly and in Pasadena. Cal Poly has now installed its first bike path on campus, and a new student organization, the University Cycling Coalition, has been formed, for which I serve as a faculty advisor along with my colleague Dr. Gwen Urey. This new student group has lots of youthful, positive energy among its student members and I see good things happening in the future.
There’s also a new advocacy organization in Pasadena, the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, formed in response to the outrage that followed the death of Philip O’Neill, and the group has already worked with the City Council to call for a stronger bike plan in that city. Another local advocacy group, Move Monrovia, was also formed in 2013 to encourage bicycling, walking, and transit in that city. Among Move Monrovia’s first priorities is working with city staff and elected officials to improve bike and pedestrian access to the planned Monrovia Gold Line station, set to open in 2015. Both of these organizations show a lot of potential to reshape how people get around in their cities.
So much remains to be done, and the car-centered mentality of most Americans (especially those over 40) remains unchanged, but there are enough hopeful signs, especially among young people, to prevent the paralysis of despair. When all else fails, I found hope and joy gliding along on my bicycle, alive to the sights and sounds of my world. I found fellowship with the many others out there who are leaving the automobile behind and enriching their lives as a result. I find such wonderful people online and in person. We’re flying under the radar, but we’re out there and we’re growing.
As we round the corner to 2014, here are some of my goals for the new year:
- Get Organized: Any positive change comes through organizing. This means continuing to work with local bicycle advocacy groups and build on our modest successes of 2013. We need better infrastructure and better laws. There are more streets that can be made safer for pedestrians and people on bikes. Three words: protected bike lanes. We must also redesign our roadways to slow traffic speeds and significantly toughen the penalties on drivers who injure or kill vulnerable road users. And, while we’re at it, let’s stop calling these preventable collisions “accidents.” Organizing for effective transit advocacy will also be a major goal.
- Get Hot: One of the reasons alternative transportation is so vitally necessary is the looming crisis of climate change and the need to radically change our habits and behaviors to reduce carbon emissions. This won’t be done by fluorescent lightbulbs and EVs alone. It’s going to require changes to the way we live and how we get around. This will require driving less and flying less. This will also require rethinking the sprawl-and-freeway model of development. This means rail, transit, bicycling, and walking. This doesn’t mean cars cease to be used, it means that we need to design our infrastructure around people, not cars. We don’t have time to wait. The sooner people get wise to this fact the better. I vow not to waste my precious time and energy on people who aren’t hip to this.
- Get Moving: I’ll continue to ride my bike and take transit where I need to go. With apologies to friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers, I’ll be a pain in the ass and gently encourage you to do the same whenever possible (and it’s more possible than you think).
Best wishes to all in the new year. And remember, when the world gets you down, ride your bike.