Electric Avenue

Gas prices are up, up, up, and the advocates are giddier than a gravel rider with a new handlebar bag:

Indeed, the only thing advocates love more than gloating over high gas prices is making fun of rubes who don’t live in Manhattan:

There are no bike lanes in the Lincoln Tunnel, so I sure hope he was on a bus and not in a [gasp] private car–though I do love it when advocates tweet in traffic.

Anyway, when gas prices go up, advocates’ eyes roll back into their heads and they slip into a Eurocentric reverie in which Americans abandon their SUVs en masse for bikes and public transit, and the government immediately unleashes trillions of dollars to build high-speed rail and stables for rideable unicorns powered by autofellatio. Of course reality is far more prosaic, and instead what happens is the government just pretends electric cars are going to fix everything:

This is oddly satisfying, because it annoys pretty much everybody, from the coal-rolling types who hate electric cars on principle, to the smuggie types who understand that an electric car is still just a car, and wreaks all the same havoc internal combustion vehicles do, only more quietly. Indeed, Streetblog was borderline apoplectic over this recent New York Times article:

Apparently, we need 400,000 electric cars in New York City by 2030 or else we’re all going to die:

In September, the Transportation Department issued a report with more ambitious proposals. It noted that New York was far behind California and major European cities in terms of how many electric cars were on the road. Right now there are about 20,000, but there will need to be 400,000 by the end of the decade to reach its long-term carbon target. In one analysis that ranked 100 metropolitan areas in the United States according to the accommodations in place for electric car culture to thrive, New York ranked 93. It was 92 places behind Provo, Utah.

Which doesn’t really matter because we’re all going to kill each other fighting over the 10,000 chargers we probably won’t even have by then:

According to the report, the city needs to install 1,000 curbside charging points across five boroughs by 2025, increasing to 10,000 by 2030, numbers the current mayoral administration is intent on hitting while also equipping 20 percent of all spaces in municipal parking lots and garages with chargers. At the same time, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law requiring all cars and trucks sold in the state to operate with zero emissions by 2035.

I should point out that I have no idea whether 10,000 chargers is a lot or not. I guess it’s…one charger for every 40 cars, is that right? Not including privately-operated chargers and that sort of thing? I tried to look up how many gas stations there currently are in New York City and couldn’t find it anywhere, which seems like the sort of thing we should know. I do know that whether 10,000 chargers is a lot or a little, advocates will complain that it’s another pernicious example of giving over public space to cars, and of encouraging citydwellers to drive them, and they certainly will have a point–as of now there are only like 28,000 bike racks in the city. Shouldn’t there be more bike racks than car chargers? Perhaps the city should preemptively undermine the complaining by installing combination car charger/bike racks. Certainly this could create conflict between bicyclists and electric car owners, but you have to admit, it would be incredibly satisfying to watch bicyclists and electric car owners fighting. Hey, nothing wrong with a little good, clean fun–I mean how badly can they hurt each other with rolled-up copies of The Atlantic anyway?

Of course, the Times being the Times, they don’t really point out that progressive urbanists and safe streets advocates don’t like electric cars, they just act like the only people who hate them are those silly Republicans:

This week, we got a glimpse into how contentious things might get when Vice President Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, the secretary of transportation, promoted electric cars and buses at an event, and then were slammed by Republican commenters for being “tone deaf.” The criticism was that it was insensitive, when so many Americans were struggling with the high cost of gas, to mention that zero-emission transport would release us from the vagaries of fuel pricing.

And those wacky conspiracy theorists:

Soon enough, electric cars were at the center of conspiracy theories spreading on social media. The Biden administration, it was suggested, was nefariously driving up the cost of gas specifically to get people to drive electric cars. Similar to the fantasy that Covid vaccines were really just a means of government mind control, another conspiracy theory has it that the government wants us to drive electric cars so they can freeze them at any time, a scenario straight out of “Minority Report.”

Who, as usual, are probably onto something . Come on, if they’d have been able to prevent you from driving your car in April 2020 they totally would have. Even I’ve advocated for freezing people out of their cars, for chrissakes!

However, since then I’ve reconsidered in light of our apparent willingness to flirt with dystopia. As appealing as it is to think they’d use that technology to keep someone with 92 school zone speeding violations from driving, they’d probably just use it so that your autonomous electro-pod will only take you to the grocery store and back when the virus du jour is spreading.

All that aside, I did appreciate that the article, in its way, suggested that at present many potential electric car buyers are still likely to simply decide, “Fuck it, I’m buying a Hyundai:”

While that is undoubtedly the case, the fact remains that even with declining prices and government subsidies — which in New York State could total about $10,000 — the price of a new electric car is still in excess $20,000, or about twice as much as a 2011 Hyundai Sonata This in a city where hundreds of thousands of residents face eviction and a high rent burden. The road to virtue is long.

Though it seems odd to compare the price of a brand new electric car to an 11 year-old Hyundai, as opposed to, you know, a used electric car:

Fuck it, I’m riding a bicycle.

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