Monday, October 21, 2013

burning bicycles

One of the currently ongoing debates in places like Los Angeles, where the main mode of transportation is the car, is how to fit bicyclists into the landscapes. Many believe that bicyclists do not deserve to bike in Los Angeles because they are rule breakers, not stopping completely (sorry Idaho) and for full period of time at stop signs and they don't have licenses. Who will think of the licenses?!? These rule breakers also slow all the traffic down. Because obviously, if you remove the bicyclists all the traffic disappears and the cars never get into accidents or break any of the rules and all the vehicles on the road magically have licenses. And likewise, if there were only bikes, they would still require the same rules as when cars are around and the traffic would be even WORSE. Or not.

I have been to a place, a city, in the United States that has 60k residents. And most of them move around by bike or foot. The cars moving around, that range in size from golf cart to no-joke a whole freaking ship, have very low speed limits. The "rules of the road" (according to cars on most U.S. streets) for bicyclists, don't necessarily apply. Ride on whichever side. Drunk or otherwise intoxicated? Whatever as long as you're not driving a car. Just make yourself visible with some lights. And because of these rules, deaths to bicyclists and pedestrians have been nearly stopped as the result of cars. What?? This is part of the fantasy land in recent years that Burning Man has been to me.

In a city made for people instead of cars, the tradeoffs become extremely apparent. Suddenly the streets aren't constant death traps. I often envision the streets in Los Angeles to be rivers full of piranhas or some other angry carnivorous/rabid animal. I spend time getting to know little side streets/streams, residential areas, alleys and other alternatives to the main piranha path ways, to try to find some less stressful locations with fewer cars passing me by and more nature when possible.

In contrast to the fantasy land at Burning Man - outside of the city, but less than the distance it takes me to get to a Trader Joe's or the Farmers Market at home, there's giant expanses of openness to bike, bike, bike as hard or as crazy as you'd like. Bike hard until your legs feel like they're giving out, you can't breathe and keep going going going and feel the wind and intensity in the open landscape. It sends shivers throughout my body and feels so free. That's one of the things I miss most. I don't want to be biking in the middle of car traffic any more than car drivers want me biking in "their" streets. I'd much prefer if the streets are treated and acknowledged as being "our" streets.


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