Threatening Their Way of Life

Whet explains some of the venom directed at bikes and bikers:

And transit is at the dead center of this shift, perhaps literally—in 2012, economists from Berkeley and Oregon State argued that rising gas pricespopped the housing bubble, as the quick, steep mid-2000s increase pushed families past their financial breaking points, forcing them to reconsider or involuntarily abandon long, expensive commutes.

All this sounds like a nightmare scenario if you live in the suburbs. Gas prices rise and housing prices fall, eating into liquid capital and equity. Families with the ability to move return back to the city, depressing housing prices even further. Declining property tax revenues and a fleeing upper-middle-class undermine previously excellent schools. At best, suburbanites take a huge hit on depreciating houses; at worst, they’re stranded in decaying neighborhoods, cut off by isolating new infrastructure.

If you grew up in Chicago from the 1950s onward, it will look familiar. It’s probably why you moved to the suburbs in the first place, and the city still bears the scars of that flight. A great—and rapid—inversion is a fearsome possibility.

Another thing that I’d argue made the rise in gas prices so devastating in the suburbs is the prevalence of suburb-to-suburb commuting. Not everybody lives out and goes in; some go sideways or up or down, and the office parks mentioned are rarely anywhere near a transit hub. Sure, some trains go to some burbs but it’s not the same as having a network of trains that let off not in the middle of 12 acres of parking but right in front of your office door. Mr. A and I both had jobs for a while that by virtue of their locations left us no choice but to drive, and that’s in a city we like to think of as having pretty awesome mass transit. You get 30 miles out, if your car is too expensive you ain’t goin’ no place.

And the lack of options means a lack of control, which is what used to make me crazy about the whole process. In terms of getting from point A to point B it’s a hell of a lot easier when everything’s close together, and Whet hits on the best thing I’ve found in my own bike riding adventures: Total control of the journey from one end to the other. I get on my bike at home, I get off it at work, I walk no more than the 10 feet from the house to the rack to the office to the rack to the house again. If you need to take a car to a train to another train to a bus and then back again at the end of the day, and even one of those chains of transportation is late or God forbid inactive entirely, your whole life is like a domino setup of fuckery that just got leveled by a T-Rex and you’re exhausted by 8 a.m.

Some of this is just generation sniping, of course, of my very least favorite kind: Why do you have all this stuff when I didn’t get any of it? One of the hardest things to argue, with myself sometimes even, is that future generations don’t owe past generations shit. You love the way you live — awesome! But don’t wait for the hipster kids to throw you a parade for it, because they won’t. You didn’t. Your parents didn’t, for their parents. That’s not how people work. Everybody wants what they want, which is no more a judgment on you than your choices are an imperative towards them.

Why glibertarian dickheads like Kass lionize self-reliance and then want their lifestyles validated by every Starbucks barista they see is one of the enduring mysteries of modern punditry.


3 thoughts on “Threatening Their Way of Life

  1. A, that’s no mystery, that’s straight-up narcissism.
    I’d also note that the venom at bikers – those un-sanctioned fucking, dirty, smelly, hipsters – is a symptom endemic to automotive traffic. The people driving cars really *hate* anything forcing them to share the road with anyone else. You can see it in articles and books from the time when auto traffic became commonplace and those jackass pedestrians needed to get the hell up on the sidewalk. (Google “Moloch & cars”) We tolerate other traffic because they look like us (4 wheels, bumpers) and don’t get in the way too much. But other transport, slower transport, more fragile transport? Tell me again, Mr. Conservative, how we should all be armed because it makes us more polite.
    It’s something inherently psychological, and culture turns a blind eye to it, reinforcing our dispositions. I’ve seen cyclists go ragey at peds on shared trails when some aerobic nutcase has had to go around one too many moony couples.

  2. You know something? I cannot feel truly independent if I do not have a bike. Now, I own a car and live in a city where a car is pretty necessary, but that car just feels like an albatross around my neck. It can never give me the feeling of liberation that a bike will give me.

  3. Of course, it would help if the next round of highway “improvements” included light rail down the center of every interstate: 355 and 294 end to end, and 90 to Elgin, 88 to Aurora, and 55 to Joliet. Then I could commute instead of drive; as none of my jobs for the past 20 years could take advantage of current rail, but could easily have take advantage of a rail web.
    But we’ll probably get more lanes, instead.

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