Thursday, October 7, 2010

Seven Carless Days, Take Two



Last Friday night I parked my truck and launched my second attempt at 'Seven Carless Days'. Details of the first failed attempt are here. I'm now six successful days in and it's been a lot tougher than I thought, and at this point I just want it crossed off my bucket list. So I don't care if I have to crawl to work and back tomorrow, I'm willing it done. Originally, I envisioned that I'd be wrapping this project up with a long and boring post full of pictures and anectdotes, kind of like when someone whips out pictures of their grandchildren from their wallet and corners you. I was actually looking forward to tormenting you a little. Pictures and anecdotes both do exist and maybe at some point I'll get around to sharing them, but the week ended up taking a much more profound turn.

The "rules" for my little challenge are that any human-powered or mass-transit way of getting yourself around is allowed and that everything else is not. Including being a passenger in a car.

The experience has helped me to stretch boundaries and develop new perspectives, as it was designed to do. But by far the most significant thing it has done is to help me more clearly understand the fundamental role that transportation plays in the life I/we have designed for ourselves and boil it down to its most basic elements: time, distance and horsepower. I had to push all three limits to get it done. As of tomorrow, these will be my approximate 7-day numbers:

170 miles by bike, 12 total hours
100 miles by bus, 3-1/2 total hours
2 miles by foot, probably about 1/2 an hour

So, say 270 miles a week is probably a good average of the number of miles it takes me to live my life every week. (That seems a little sick when you put it that way, but those are the numbers.) Doing the math, driving those miles would probably take about 9 hours. Biking them all takes around 19.

19 hours is a huge chunk of time; 16 this week just about did me in. 9 in my truck minimizes it, but gets me no excercise or fun. Fortunately, I can mix and match, because I have transportation choices. That's the main point of everything I've written so far, so please hold that thought.

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Monday morning, three days into my challenge, I picked up the paper from the front porch and read a cover headline about the 2nd ave bike lane. I had no time to read the article because I had a bus to catch and rushed out on my bike at 6am into the rain and dark. The cold and miserable start to this day was nothing in comparison to the way it would play out.

Once at work, I read the article online. It was uninformed, unfactual and seemed to intentionally pit motorists against cyclists. It was disappointing, but the comments that followed were pure anti-bike vitriol and venom. I'm talking hatred. Reading that shit left me floored and depressed. Try as I might to let these troll-ey, vile words of anonymous cowards roll of my back, I could not. Then things went from bad to worse.

During the afternoon, the Spokesman-Review reported online that a vehicle-bicycle accident had occured downtown. Details were scant and in my opinion, predjudicial against the cyclist. Whether intentional or not (and I do believe it was not), it nonetheless opened the door for all the scumbag self-centered backwater myopic vultures who preyed on the morning article to flock over and tear into this new bit of news with the full fury of their self-righteousness.

Details were slow to follow, but eventually started to emerge. The cyclist, Matthew, is by all accounts, a responsible rider, good citizen, good guy. He was riding to work and had the right-of-way through an intersection, when a minivan that had stopped at the cross-street proceeded through the intersection, across his path. One minute he was riding to work, and the next, he had no chance. His injuries are ICU-level head and spine. He has family that are devastated and friends that are in tailspins.

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It's been a highly emotional and pivotal week in terms of the struggle of bikes and peds to establish rights and challenge perceptions in our fair city and I've done a bunch of soul-searching over all this. How can you not. A guy riding his bike, doing all the right things, has his life destroyed by the irresponsible action of another, and then his family and friends have to endure the hurtful cruelty of cowards that imply it was his fault for choosing a bike as his mode of transportation in the first place.

I'm terribly sad for Matthew and his family and friends and I'm trying to battle the anger that I feel towards worthless dipshits who inflict so much pain with the garbage that flows out of their mouths, because it's non-productive (the anger) and in the end, those folks don't count. The insane us-or-them, car-vs-bike mentality is so redneck. Nor do I have the patience to engage in the round-and-round stupidity of arguments about whose taxes pay for what. We're a society.

What I have decided I would like to focus on in order to avoid total despair is the idea that the city I grew up in and love could someday be a place that in general, values and promotes a diversity of transportation options because it understands this to be a key quality-of-life component. I can at least dream, can't I?

Here are some links:

John provided the first detailed info on Matthew's collision here, along with a forum for others to share additional facts and express emotions in a civilized manner . . .

http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com/2010/10/cyclist-hit-on-4th-and-lincoln.html

http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com/2010/10/more-info-on-cyclist-accident.html

S-R article on the 2nd Ave bike lane. (Warning, comments will make you vommit) . . .

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/oct/04/bike-lane-at-crossroads/

S-R article on Matthew's collision. (These comments are actually worth wading through just because one of Matthew's friends posted a tribute somewhere in there that is so unbelievably touching) . . .

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/oct/04/crash-between-bike-minivan-closes-downtown-streets/

Matthew's caringbridge website:

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/matthewhardie

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