Bike to Work Day and bike to work cities
Courtesy Billg1 via PicasaHere’s a late Bike to Work Day post. OK it’s a glorified retweet of Ezra Klein’s three-paragraph story about giving up his car in D.C., which is worth reading. Here’s the last two-thirds:
The debate over auto ownership is unfortunately moralistic when, in my experience, the realities of auto ownership are almost entirely decided by infrastructure. Left for LeDroit, an excellent blog covering my neighborhood, makes the point well in a recent post: Cities and neighborhoods built before the advent of car culture tend to be pretty easy to navigate without a car, and as you can see in the graph above, a lot of the people who live in them tend to not own cars. Conversely, cities that were built after cars became the norm essentially require their residents to own cars and their residents comply.
In practice, this doesn’t feel like a decision imposed by the cold realities of infrastructure. We get attached to our cars. We get attached to our bikes. We name our subway systems. We brag about our short walks to work. People attach stories to their lives. But at the end of the day, they orient their lives around pretty practical judgments about how best to live. If you need a car to get where you’re going, you’re likely to own one. If you rarely use your car, have to move it a couple of times a week to avoid street cleaning, can barely find parking and have trouble avoiding tickets, you’re going to think hard about giving it up. It’s not about good or bad or red or blue. It’s about infrastructure.
The point for sustainable transportation types is that focusing on infrastructure–safe, pleasant bikeways–matters more than focusing on individual behavior.
Bike to Work Day is still helpful, though, for normalizing bike commuting. Bringing riders together shows them–and others who see them–that it’s a common thing to do in a lot of places, not a fringe activity.
For the record, I biked in today, but I was only in it for the SmartWool sock giveaway in my neighborhood. I’m not as hardcore as my friend Andrew, who was photographed at Seattle’s most dangerous biking intersection for a story on the dangers of biking in Seattle.