When I first arrived in Austin ten years ago, getting around town on two wheels was a far more tenuous experience. Riding most places required a thick skin and the bike-ninja skills learned in places where bicycles are treated as foreign intruders in a land of murderous machines.
The times, as they say, are a-changing.
Everywhere I look these days, I see people getting on bicycles. People with far fewer telling knee scars and bike tattoos. People with children and grocery baskets. Now, I don’t mean to overstate the case: Austin is no Amsterdam. Nonetheless, bikes, bike lanes, controversial cycle tracks, pedicabs, multi-mile bike paths and all the issues surrounding them are appearing everywhere. It’s an interesting time in the development of a rapidly growing city, and someone should be keeping up with it.
So, that’s what I’m going to attempt here.
I have ridden a bike since I was a kid. I went through a pretty serious car-loving, pizza-delivering phase through high school and college (as might any average suburban kid) before returning to my two-wheeled roots after moving to Austin. Less a six-month stint as a travelling, van-based blogger, a bike has been my main form of transportation since some time in 2007. I’ve been a pedicabber, an organizer with Bikes Across Borders on and off since 2009 and a coordinator at the Austin Yellow Bike Project since 2012.
For the most part, I don’t like cars and our car-centric society.
I still remember when it really dawned on me. I was sitting at the intersection of 6th and Lamar, shortly before selling off my car, watching all of the giant machines in long lines, spitting their fumes in my face, each with a single person inside. It was like I was watching a distorted cartoon of a dystopic future. Tiny people (well, admittedly increasingly large people and large asses…due to their automobile reliance) being transported in enclosed contraptions 10 times their size. It all seemed so absurd.
That moment stuck with me and still comes to mind every time I look at the traffic around me.
So, if you’re wondering about the views of this author when reading this blog, feel free to keep that in mind. I don’t think that owning a vehicle means owning the road and I think that there is a better way.
Oh, and while we are at it, let’s get one thing straight from the get-go – no, cars and bicycles are not the same. No, I do NOT think they should be treated the same. I think they should have equal access, but all laws are not created equal. Coming to a full stop and rocking backwards has entirely different implications when it comes to a 2-ton vehicle with limited sight than a single person on a bicycle with full, 360 degree awareness of their surroundings. Does that mean I’m advocating blowing through lights and stop signs? Not at all. But the idea that bikes should have to follow laws designed with only cars in mind is silly and simplistic. The laws, much as the roads, need to be changed to accomodate for our changing city.
Okay. </end rant>
On another note – if you’d like to contribute to this blog or simply offer some tips, please feel free to email me here.