Sunday, April 22, 2007

A car-free state of mind.

I got the latest issue of Adventure Cycling in the mail at work last week; as someone who really, really wants to start doing some bike touring one of these days, I read this magazine immediately from front cover to back page.

Within the first few pages of this issue, there was a little story that caught my eye: "Carless in the Cowboy State". The subheading boldly declared, "Wyoming initiates unprecedented vehicle ban". Huh? Really?!? This sounds cool! So I read on. The article goes on to discuss that all motor vehicles will be banned from all streets and roads in the state of Wyoming for the entire week of July 16-22. The measure, which won support from both Wyoming Senate and house representatives, was designed to encourage both residents and tourists to use alternative means of transportation to get around. The article stated that Lance Armstrong is rumored to be planning a group ride across the state in support of the measure.

Wow! What a victory for cycling advocates! Perhaps this measure would serve as a model for others. If people are forced to abandon their cars for just one week, then maybe, just maybe a few people would find that riding their bike or walking to work would actually be enjoyable and would continue their car-free commute after July 22nd. Imagine the possibilities!

The article closed with a web address to a website where you could get more information: Of course I had to check this out.

OK, well if you clicked on the link before reading any more of my post, hopefully you got as good of a laugh as I did. Instead of a glorious website rich with details of such an unprecedented step towards encouraging citizens to use alternative means of transportation, I was greeted with a big, bold headline that read, "Welcome fellow gullible cyclists".

Much to my dismay, it was all a hoax. Actually, it was a belated April Fool's joke. I felt so robbed. As I thought about all the possibilities that could have come of a measure such as this...well, if it was actually true, that is.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I began to think about the Wyoming measure from all angles. As a cyclist, I would gladly be forced to ditch the car and ride my bike to work. Like they say, you can't rape the willing. But what about the rest of the population? How would they react? Would they be open to finding other ways to get to work and actuallly embrace using them?

It's sort of like when your parents forced you to take piano lessons when you were 10. When you're forced to do something, it's often human nature to resist it. So as much as I thought that the Wyoming measure was as cool as hell (well, again, if it was actually true), it dawned on me that alternative means of transportation can't be forced onto people. Sure, it might persuade some people to change the way they commute and run errands, but it runs the risk of turning so many more away.

So at a time when gas prices are at an all-time high and our air and environment is more polluted than it ever has been, what is the carrot that needs to be dangled in front of people to get them to leave their cars at home? As we learned at the National Bicycle Summit, there are many measures in place (and not hoaxes I swear...I was there!) that will reward and encourage people to start using differents means to commute.

My hope as a budding advocate (who still has a lot to learn) and as a cyclist is that people will adopt cycling as a means of transportation without being forced to do so. If folks are forced into it, rush hour will have more bar-banging than a AA Pro main at an ABA BMX national.

I just realized that I just got off on a tangent, taking a stance against an April Fool's joke. Well, I hope like me, you at least got a good chuckle out of it.

Happy trails!


Tim Grahl said...

I still say the only carrot big enough for the general public is their wallet. Alternative forms of transportation (and fuel) will only happen when people's bank account start really getting pounded.

Three cheers for higher gas prices!

wrw said...

Devising a viable 'green' solution these past twenty-four (24) months.
Ponder an affordable 'novel' multiple passenger vehicle.
Quite upset with Mr. Friedman's comment about 'green' Nuclear (fission) energy. Required fuel rods are 'hot' for 1000 years.
Worthwhile, 'green' Nuclear (Fusion) energy is being developed off shore as we blog.

iconoclasst said...

Lance Armstrong, Subaru spokesman, riding in support of a weeklong car ban...ah, the hypocrisy!

Otherwise, a great idea; one that DC could take a page from.

CS-H kemyooter said...

I agree with Tim, but I also think it has to happen on a grassroots level. I have passed along the bug of riding to work rather than driving to over 20 people in the last 3 years (20 might not sound like a lot but it is huge in my book + who knows how many bugs those 20 people have passed along). I feel that we need to keep riding our bikes and be advoates in our generousity, freindliness, and healthiness. If we make cycling look easy and stylish then it is easy to pursuade our co-workers, and freinds to ride. It's these small groups that will help spread the bug/obsession.

So, acknowlegde that other cyclist waiting at the light with you - it will help them validate what they are doing is a good thing and hopefully that validation will start a chain reaction of spreading the word that bikes will always win and they are pretty damn fun to ride too.

Of course I could go on about this but I am only commenting so hopefully this makes some sense.

Cheers - I am glad people are thinking!

jill hamilton said...

Great comments, folks! Kemyooter...awesome job at influencing those around you to commute by bike! That's killer.

And what you say about acknowledging other cyclists...well, that's right on the money and a topic I've been planning on blogging about. Heck, I just might do it tonight!