Those Were The Days

I usually like to go for a ride on Friday but it’s a little wet out today:

You’re not supposed to point this out, but flooding in Brooklyn is nothing new:

Back then it was streetcars:

And now it’s buses:

Though as far as I know there’s only been one chocolate flood:

But give it time.

Of course it’s human nature to feel as though things are progressively getting worse:

There is no question that the dangers of motor vehicles have robbed children of many freedoms, and continue to rob children of their lives. But nothing’s that simple, and 1923 was hardly an idyllic time for the children of New York City:

Motor vehicle deaths in New York City then were far higher than they are today–there were “only” 255 total traffic fatalities in 2022, and that’s with far fewer cars on the roads–and children were certainly admonished to stay out of the streets:

Even in 1900, when there only 8,000 registered motor vehicles in the entire United States (there were only 500 in all of New York State according to one source), trolleys killed over 100 people in Brooklyn alone:

You hear a lot about how we “normalize traffic violence” now, but back then it was so normal for trolleys to kill people that they named a baseball team after it.

Of course it’s true that in the olden days you could get in a lot more trouble for killing someone with a vehicle. In old articles about drivers running people down they were often charged with serious crimes–as were the trolley motormen and conductors, as per the aforementioned article. But is this because there was still a belief that streets were for people and children should be free to walk and play in them? Or is it because in the days before unions and publicly-owned transit a private company was more than happy to throw one of its employees under the bus? (Pun intended.) The fact that motorists today are often shielded from the consequences of their actions by the law and the insurance companies can be infuriating and as such feels like a major step backwards for humanity. But this change was driven (pun intended) not only by the car industry but also by our ever-evolving ideas about what constitutes due process and the rights to which we’re entitled. In 1900, women couldn’t vote. In 1927, the Supreme Court upheld the state’s right to forcibly sterilize the feebleminded. Racial segregation wasn’t outlawed until 1964, and homosexuality was illegal in various states well into the 21st century. I mention all this not because I believe the asshole who hit you with his Hyundai shouldn’t be punished, but because historical context is important, and when you read about someone being thrown in jail 100 years ago it can be very naive to assume the reason for it was that the people holding the key had a more highly evolved sense of justice and humanity than we do today.

TLDR; it can be dangerous to idealize the past. Some things were better then, while others were worse. Way worse. There are a million things wrong with cars and car culture, and we should endeavor to improve them, but on balance I’d say kids have it way better today than they did back in the days before antibiotics when their teachers could still beat the shit out of them and they’d get run over by a trolley while limping home.

Of course, as one of the cycling world’s foremost retrogrouches this is something I myself must constantly keep in mind, and I’m often guilty of romanticizing the components of yore, and dismissing new stuff simply because it’s new. Fortunately, there are really no moral pitfalls in doing so, since it’s just bike parts, and who am I really hurting if I whine about, say, this?

Yes, finally, now you can surrender completely to the algorithm while riding your bicycle:

Assuming you consider this a “bicycle:”

And you consider this “cycling:”

Yes, if you hate pretty much everything about cycling except the looking-at-what’s-in-front-of-you part, this is the bike for you:

Sounds like watching the screensaver on your Apple TV.

Powered by

Up ↑