You Can’t Spell “Conspiracy” Without “Con” or “Racy.” Think About It.

I was reading Streetsblog this morning and this jumped out at me:

Wait. Roads are a car metaphor? We shouldn’t be on them anymore??? I thought maybe it was a joke, but in addition to myself at least one commenter seemed to take it seriously:

This is a great point. Paths indeed existed for millennia before cars. As for roads, those only came in with the Mesopotamians, who started building them in 4000 BC because they needed someplace to drive their SUVs. Then of course there was the road to Damascus, where Paul the Apostle had his great revelation and uttered those sacred words: “Fuck it, I’m leasing a Hyundai.”

Given this, is being “on the wrong road” in fact a “tired car metaphor” as Streetsblog claims? Well, it may be tired, though Robert Frost might have wanted to kick you in the nuts for disparaging road metaphors:

That poem was first published in 1915, and it was of course inspired by Frost’s immense satisfaction with his Land Rover Discovery:

[Two paths diverged in a wood; I chose the one on the right, and I tore it the fuck up.]

So yes, maybe it’s tired–though by Streetsblogian logic “tired” is itself a car metaphor, because cars have them. But did the speaker actually mean to refer to cars? Careful not to read the actual article, because, you know, it’s in the Times, I clicked on the link and did a search for the phrase so I could gauge her intent:

JFC Streetsblog, your problem isn’t with the road metaphor, your problem is with the car mechanic metaphor. Yes, in an ideal smug-tastic future we would not need car mechanics. But roads? Those we’re gonna need, cars or no cars, if for no other reason than to parade around on our Dutch bikes and our bakfietsen and lord our superiority over everybody else:

Then again, I’ve always suspected that deep down a lot of advocates don’t really like riding bikes either, and if I were a full-blown conspiracy theorist I’d posit that bicycles are just their way of weaning everyone off cars; you know, first get everyone out of cars and onto bikes and e-things, then get them off bikes and e-things and onto trains and buses, then load them off the trains and buses and right into the Soylent factories where they’ll be ground up into fair trade coffee and served with dessert at $1,000-a-head “livable streets” fundraisers. I’d also believe the so-called “15-minute city” is a conspiracy theory to herd us all into camps and sever the Achilles of our mobility once and for all:

To be clear, I don’t think the 15-minute city is a conspiracy. But I do think it’s funny that urbanists and smug media outlets ridicule Silicon Valley when they reinvent the bus:

Yet nobody ridicules the urbanists when they reinvent Park Slope:

I’m old enough to remember five years ago when all this was called “gentrification” and it was supposed to be bad.

Again, I don’t think this is some sort of conspiracy, and of course it makes good sense to remember how neighborhoods and towns worked before many of them were sliced and diced by highways and inundated with car traffic, and to undertake new development with an eye towards what worked well for us in the past–you know, like your kid being able to walk or ride a bike to school. However, I don’t think anybody should be surprised that there are people who do think it’s a conspiracy, nor do I think the urbanist types are in a strong position to mock them. Before spring 2020 the idea that governments wouldn’t let people go to work or school or even leave their home by fiat (the decree, not the car) would have also seemed like a conspiracy, and whatever you may think of that whole episode there is a not-insignificant number of people who are not about to go through it all again, nuh-uh, no way. Moreover, the Venn diagram of people championing the 15-minute city now and the people who were shouting, “Shut it down!” 36 months ago is basically a single circle; here in New York I was quite surprised when the same people who lament the freedom children have lost to car culture started demanding that the city close the schools and even the playgrounds. This makes the “nuh-uh” set even more suspicious of the urbanist set than they were before. Furthermore, it reaffirms their belief that governments are liable to try pretty much anything after declaring an “emergency:”

So is it crazy to think some government somewhere won’t try to limit your travel or close your business because you’ve exceeded your carbon allotment, or that some arbitrary index or metric doesn’t look good so you can’t leave your 15-minute city this week? Certainly you could say these scenarios are unrealistic or even highly unlikely, if for no other reason than that the urbanists themselves are only on board with the 15-minute city so long as they’re still able to send their children to a private school in another neighborhood or drive to their vacation home. So yes, they’re almost certainly being overly suspicious when the ascribe malicious intent to people who simply want to design nicer places for people to live.

But I’d argue that you can no longer say that they’re crazy.

Speaking of things that once seemed crazy and dystopian, would you ever have imagined people would be getting around like this?

Like the people who hear “15-minute city” and immediately think, “They’re gonna herd me into a camp!,” I admit I also recoil in fear when I see these things. But I try to remind myself that people once saw bicycles the same way–and still kinda do for that matter:

How far we have and haven’t come.

Still, I have no such reservations about declaring people who ride motor scooters with no license plates on the bike and pedestrian paths to be total and complete fuckwits:

I happened to be stopped when he flew by me at like 40mph, and though I didn’t say anything he still gave me the finger when he passed. As someone who owned and operated a motorcycle for a number of years, this sort of behavior strikes me as profoundly craven and pathetic. It’s like riding your crappy full-suspension mountain bike in the playground and flipping off the kids on the balance bikes. Try that with a One Percenter (the biker gangs, not the rich people) and see how it works out for you.

Finally, you’ll be devastated to learn that POC seems to be sold out of its garvel helment:

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, just another example of the bike industry using earth tones on the same old crap and calling it “gravel,” right?

Ah, but this is different! Not only is it branded like your jeans:

But it also has this thing on it:

It’s for, uh… well… I dunno… you can put your weed in it I guess?


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