Syv Fjell Sykkel

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." — H.G. Wells

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Refuse to be Herded

First off I would like to share that much of the inspiration for this blog comes from various related sources on the world wide interweb. Previously I have mentioned Copenhagenize and now I would like to refer to the others who occupy space in the list of links to the right. Links provided via this blog are incredible resources for cycling inspiration, discussion of cycling related issues, insight into bicycle culture around the globe and generally wholesome and entertaining viewpoints on the world by bicycle.
The title of this post is inspired by both Bikesnobnyc and an various articles from The UrbanCountry.

“When you’re stuck in your car on the highway because an accident or construction has suddenly transformed a twenty-five-minute jaunt into a three-hour nightmare, or you’ve been sitting in a stopped subway train in a tunnel for half an hour after a particularly miserable day at work, you feel impotent – and nothing is more frustrating than impotence. These are the times when you attempt to bargain with the universe: “If you make this train move now, I swear I’ll be a better person.” Then you try to think of people worse off than you. “Well at least I’m not in prison”. But really, you are in prison, and even worse, you don’t deserve it.”
“Being packed onto a subway or a bus or even stuck in your car in traffic makes you feel like cattle, and that’s an awful way to feel. If you never want to feel like a cow again – physically or mentally – start riding your bike.”
                                                                                                          Bike Snob NYC

Bikesnobnyc says it often best. We are fast becoming cattle, not only in transportation situations, but also in terms of how we choose to spend our time and finances. Our thoughts and ideals are also herded through the same machine of modern urban society. Our values both material and otherwise undergo a constant funneling towards a perceived ideal from the moment we are born. One of the most prevalent idealism in western society is the status and normality of owning and actively using a motor vehicle for personal transportation in urban environments.
In Norway there are many people we live in rural communities with limited services and with challenging topographical features that make driving a necessity for living. This is not the issue that faces transportation in our cities. In the city you have an element of choice and great resources are strategically allocated to influence the variety and quality of the various choices you have to move about in your urban environment. Furthermore, you ultimately have a choice in how you choose to position yourself in this environment. Where you work, where you send your kids to school, where you spend your free time, it all equates to a question of personal mobility. 
Urban environments originate and thrive on the basis of choice. We want access to jobs, schools, entertainment, consumer goods, friends etc. Your local farmer may only have one road to his property; it may be many kilometers from the nearest intersection, train station or bus stop. His livelihood is dependant on his location, and so is your urban livelihood, but unlike the farmer you have an abundance of infrastructure on your doorstep designed and maintained to get you from all of the things you value strong enough to make the choice as to where you live. Ultimately, choosing to live in an urban environment centers around the values of convenience and efficiency. You can live work and play with greater efficiency, yet you may choose to daily subject yourself to the suffocating restrictions that throwing yourself into the constraints of urban herding entails. 
Here in Bergen the hot topic the last year has been our brand new multi billion kroner light rail system Bybanen. The visionaries at city hall pushed through the construction of the line that runs from the downtown core to Nestun. Already construction has started on the next leg to Lagunen (popular shopping district), with the ultimate goal being Flesland international airport in phase three. We have had the system for less than a year and already it is being heavily criticized for being slow, prone to delays due to mechanical failures and rough weather, frequent collisions with cars, a ticket system that doesn’t work half the time, overcrowding etc. As a brick in a big, well thought out wall of transportation it would have been fine. City hall however has removed both roads (that were efficient bus routes) and bike friendly routes (long stretches along Inndalsveien have been made dangerous to ride) in order to fit double tracks into an already space starved valley landscape. bus routes have been cut with the intent of this new train taking over much of the transportation into the core of the city resulting in overcrowded trains and longer travel times for commuters. At the same time pollution at the now famous Danmarksplass intersection has not gone down (and is now almost exclusively blamed on wood and oil burning stoves in the area despite thousands of cars passing each day) and congestion along the Fjøsanger roadway to the downtown is as bad as ever. Billions have been spent and no one can see a real improvement in public transportation. 
Overcomplicating solutions to simple problems is a political favorite, bicycles are just too simple. As I have mentioned before the Bergen Bicycle Plan of 2010 continues were the previous plan failed to increase bicycle use in this city. To make the plan a reality there needs to be a demand and with soaring gas prices, inefficient public transportation and an increasing population there has never been a better time to flood the city with bicycles and show the world that this is a mode of transportation that needs to be prioritized with real quality infrastructural intervention. Currently much our the local political focus is to improve traffic flow and diversify popular routes (tunnel from Arna to the downtown to take pressure of the Fløyen tunnel, putting Danmarksplass intersection underground, ring roads etc.) with little or no effort being made to decrease the number of cars on our roads. These strategies are incredibly expensive both in terms of kroners and time taken away from addressing facilitating more sustainable modes of transportation. We need real change in our city; sustainable change for a new era where driving everywhere is no longer a right, but a potentially poor choice among many better choices.
You have the power of choice and the power to influence what gets prioritized locally. Governments look to see what is profitable, sustainable and in demand when allocating funds to new transportation projects, upgrades and maintenance of existing infrastructure. Exercise the power of choice in the pursuit of true freedom. Show your local community that you ride, by riding! Be one of the increasing numbers of individuals who no longer choose to take part in the daily herding by car and public transport. Fill the streets and bike paths. Show your elected leaders that bicycles are here to stay and are a growing, sustainable and real presence in your city. Urban cycling should be comfortable, relaxing. pleasant, spontaneous, affordable, punctual, serene, healthy and cheerful. Demand more of your elected officials!
Integrating cycling into your daily transportation routine doesn’t have to be complicated. Look into potential routes to your most frequent destinations, get your bicycle in order (we will cover some of the key point to a good city bike in a future post) and ultimately start feeling the freedom. Every time we ride a bicycle, we need to show others that it can be comfortable and convenient to ride a bicycle. Show them that they don’t need all the gear they think they need. Remember the 5 km rule? Most destinations within 5 km of your home can be more efficiently traveled by bicycle than on foot, by bus or definitely by car. Bikes are cheap, food is cheap and parking is free. Try it, live true freedom, set an example and be an inspiration to your fellow citizens.

“Buy this car to drive to work; drive to work to pay for this car…
                                   You say you want to get out, but you won’t, because it’s a trap.”

Buy this bike to ride to work, ride to work to pay for ………. You get the point.

Ride on!

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