Great news! Bloomberg reports that US bike trips have “soared.” SOARED I tell you!
While they’ve soared the most in New York City, it’s happening everywhere, from Virginia Beach to San Diego:
Well, fine, that’s just a car blog, not a trustworthy site like Bloombe-…oh, wait:
So how can cycling in the United States be soaring and plummeting at the same time according to the very same media outlet? I dunno. But according to Bloomberg it’s because bicycles don’t have “a promising future in a truly Pigouvian city:”
I hope you’ll forgive me for speaking frankly here, but WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN?!?
[“A rather poor location for a bike lane, wouldn’t you agree? It’s far too Pigouvian.”]
Of course the real answer to why bike trips are up and down at the same time is because the media must keep you in a constant state of arousal, which by necessity means they’ve got to keep getting you all worked up then leave you with a case of les balles bleues, only to repeat the cycle once the aching in your loins subsides and you’re foolish enough to respond to their overtures once again. Everyone’s cycling! Nobody’s cycling! Bike commuting is the future! Bike commuting is doomed! People love bike lanes! People hate bike lanes! Tabloid columnists write anti-bike screeds, semi-professional bike bloggers write pretentious columns about how stupid they are, and on and on and on, because no matter which side you’re on, pontificating and bloviating and excoriating are all in a day’s work, and without someone to excoriate you’d be out of a job:
Then there’s the weather. As you know, we had a lot of flooding here in New York this past Friday as we get hit with the remnants of a tropical storm Ophelia. Here was the Saw Mill River Parkway just north of the city the next day:
I just so happened to be passing by on the adjacent bike path, which apart from some mud and the odd downed tree was completely rideable:
Now, as we all know from media outlets such as the New York Times, all this rain is from climate change and it’s unprecedented:
There’s no question our infrastructure is deficient in many ways. This is because we’re humans, and we often make poor, short-sighted choices. Consider my local subway station (which I’ve referenced before because it’s such a perfect temporal yardstick). Here’s what it looked like in or around 1908 when it was new:
In that time they’ve managed to stretch the fuck out of it to make more room for the cars:
Yet 115 years after it was built, and 33 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it does not even have an elevator.
When you consider the manner in which we plan (or fail to plan) when developing (or failing to develop) our infrastructure, you begin to understand why we’re regularly overwhelmed by rainfall. Sure, if you just arrived here from outer space and started reading the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the situation is indeed unprecedented, and is a sign of our impending doom. However, the weather has been kicking our city’s ass on a regular basis for as far back as you care to go; the real difference is how our leaders and our media present it to us. In the 21st century, whether it’s last week’s flooding, or last year’s flooding, or Sandy, or Irene, or cold snaps, or heat waves, the story is always how we’ve never seen anything like this before, or at least not like this. But of course we have. We see it all the time. For example, in the pre-Internet days, when we were still mostly just worried about aerosol cans, I remember when I didn’t have to go to school because of Hurricane Gloria:
The city didn’t get the worst of the storm, so the Times waved off the flooding and other damage like it was no big deal:
Today all those cellphone videos of flooded highways seem apocalyptic, and we take it for granted that this sort of thing is highly unusual, but back then the Times figured New York got off easy:
Today the mayor puffs up his chest and says he’s going to save everyone from climate change:
Back then the mayor puffed up his chest and said everyone scared the storm away:
By the way, we take for granted that events like this were once considered “once in a lifetime” storms as Adams says, but if we ever did I have no idea why, since they happen pretty regularly:
Hey, look at that, flooded highways and subway outages, go figure:
But of course you have to go a lot farther back to find another example of somethi–oh:
Five days of rain, flooded highways–and worst of all, cancelled horse races:
“Once in a lifetime,” really? Every story about flooding in New York City mentions the last big flood that came before it, which was never that long ago, and decade after decade, it’s tough to keep all the flooding straight.
That’s Hurricane Donna, which brought waist-deep water to lower Manhattan, and generated some pretty exciting newsreels:
They had the booming voice thing down, but they hadn’t yet come up with the concept that we’re doomed as a species.
I suspect the reason we fail to learn from the past is that everything seems quaint and charming in retrospect, and movie cameras were still so novel people smiled and waved at them even as a hurricane washed away all their worldly possessions:
Of course Donna victims in 1960 weren’t old enough to remember Connie, which had flooded Queens, uh, five years previously:
It’s almost like this is the sort of thing you should expect during hurricane season when you live in a giant city that was built on top of wetlands.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to get their feet wet.