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share the road? that's not enough for me.

 I am hoping this will be the last -- for awhile, anyway -- in my series of exploratory rants about bikes, cars, and advocacy.

I have grown tired of seeing "Share The Road" stickers everywhere. This has become an empty phrase for me. I am being forced to share a road that isn't mine in the first place, because I refuse to own and drive a car. Worse, I have grown weary of the great lie that the "Share The Road" campaign entails. For the present, we live in a world where the automobile is king and that is not going to change anytime soon.

But it WILL change. It HAS to change. I believe that with all my heart. I have never been more clear or firm in any belief I've ever held in my life. The car culture WILL give way to a future where people come first, and transportation -- indeed, all innovation -- will be human-driven and human-powered. I believe in that future, even if I will not live to see it to fruition.

How do we get there from here? It will take time and courage. And it will require each of us, one at a time if need be, to begin seeing the world in a different way. Many more of us will have to understand and embrace a vision of a world where most things are within walkable distances; where everyone has what they need but not much more than that; where, because everyone has what they need everyone learns how to be more content with their lot; and the spheres we call "home" will become more densely populated and smaller (remember I've been talking about truly liveable cities; that means you get to know your neighbors and live on a MUCH more local, deliberate, intimate scale). More of us will grow our own food and share what we have with each other. More of us will HAVE to give up the "lone wolf" mindset of the Wild American and, REALLY let go of our fear of each other, to create deliberate communities and families-of-choice where we intentionally, mindfully live and work and play together. We will have to shop less and make more. We will have to make do rather than make new. And we will have to find ways to do it with grace and kindness and an ever-expanding spirit of hope and simplicity.

What will this mean for bicycles, whose many parts are made of metal and rubber and plastic? It will mean conserving, repairing that which can be repaired, and recycling everything else so it can be made into something useful again. It will mean that we don't make as many things from raw, virgin material. It may be that as cars begin to lose fashionability, we can make new things from their parts -- bicycle parts, shelter or furniture, and other things. A time of great innovation and resourcefulness is just beginning to make itself known on the horizon. Will it come to full flower in my lifetime? I doubt it. Dinosaurs take a long time to die. But I have every faith that it will happen. I am more sure of this than I am of the existence of God, or of a soul.

To that end, I'm going to stop fighting the wars I cannot win and instead begin to win the battles within reach.

I'll keep riding my bike. 
I will NOT expect cars to give me quarter, and I will not ride as though they're going to. People can write all the laws they want but we screwed up a hundred years ago when we built the roads to serve cars; until the last car sputters to a stop there is nothing bike-riders can do except survive. So I will ride to survive, and I'll do it with style and flair and enjoy myself as much as possible. Riding my bike every day is a battle I've already won because I do it. And I will keep doing it, I'll keep holding fast to the dream of the enormous quiet, the beautiful quiet that will come after the last car sputters to a halt, the amazing quiet that right now we can only get if we escape to the woods for a week's vacation but which we really ought to have where we live, every day. I want it to be quiet enough to hear birdsong out my window, without the roar of jet engines or trucks or cars at all. That won't happen in my life time, but it WILL happen someday.

I'll continue to live a life that's closer to the ground, more simple and dressed-down.
I'll conserve and recycle and repair and re-use and share and scavenge more, and shop less. I'll trade and barter and do as much as I can off the radar. And I'll do it all with a sly grin, a knowing wink and a sense of fun that the tired old "American Dream" cannot give me.

I don't need a giant, bloated non-profit organization to ride my bike for me, just as I don't need the government to live, on my behalf, the simpler life I dream of. I will do these things anyway. And if I somehow get "left behind", I won't worry about it. 

So I guess I've answered my questions about engaging with governments and giant organizations that threaten to fall down under their own weight. Organizations and institutions don't need me; they certainly act is if they don't, anyway. And, except for the networking and ideas that their work may sometimes provide, I don't really need them, either. I can network and meet people and work and play and build relationships and create innovative ways of living simply and well without those nameless, faceless institutions.
And I'll ride my bike. 


Once again an inspiring post even when I feel like death warmed over this morning after what it to be the last really cold commute (-6F) until next Fall


Very inspiring, provocative, and radical. Anarchistic perhaps? You have a vision which I can't share--not because I don't approve of it but because I can't see it. I've craned my neck and shut one eye and squinted with the other but alas, I still can't see it. But there is that "not in my lifetime" disclaimer so I'll never know if I couldn't see it because it didn't exist or because I was blind.

Keep writing and sharing with us.


Sorry, Beth. Forgot to sign my comment. The second one is mine. -PErry
What's sad to me is how vague the phrase is. I've heard drivers tell me to get off the road because I'm not "sharing it" properly with them.

I hear you. If you want a more urbane, civilized life, you have to create it for yourself and your family and friends. I'm trying my best to live that kind of life and it starts by riding and taking transit for all but the longest or most time-sensitive trips. You have to live in the world of possibility and infect everyone with your positive attitude.

I'm not waiting around for the mayor or the governor to make it easier for me to bike. Sure, there are jerks around who just don't get it, but most drivers are nice, L.A.'s reputation aside!
"until the last car sputters to a stop "

That may be sooner rather than later if any of the Big 3 automakers fail. That would have to change our mindset a little, at least.

You're helping me maky up my mind


Thanks I stumbled onto your blog after someone posted it to a list I’ve been part of for some time. Boy am I a lucky guy. You’re right, I deserve better. I sometimes forget how nice my life would be if it were quiet or just quieter. There are days when it can be nearly impossible to remain calm in this tremendous storm we’re all navigating through. And I’m responsible for dehumanizing “cagers” from time to time even when I know that they’re people just like me inside those mechanical beasts.

Best to take a deep breath and enjoy the fact that I can still do this. Enjoy the feel of the saddle beneath my sit bones. Or the sensation of warm sunshine penetrating my layers of wool.

Life is as good as I let it be.


Excellent write-up

Great post. I commute on my bicycle to work and for fun. It seems people are starting notice. From my perception, more and more people are pedaling into work or just pedaling around. Your views on conserve and living as a minimalist really strikes a chord with me. I too struggle with this in my life. The overwhelming attack of advertisers and large conglomerates trying to sell you crap that you have are getting tiring. In reflection, I should be happy with what I do have and learn to enjoy it and create what I need. I've lost my way for awhile, but thanks for quick reminder.


The irony

If we had the world you envision, then the medications that you occasionally talk about that keep you alive probably wouldn't have been invented.

-- Michelle

Re: The irony

That's quite possible. I'm not talking about going back to the Stone Age, however; I'm just talking about innovation used with greater foresight and with an eye towards sustainability. Without getting into another lengthy discussion just now, I'm willing to concede that part of true sustainability may include reexamining our relationship with human longevity. That means that even MY longevity can be called into question.

If the car culture collapses grandly and suddenly, my life would most certainly be impacted. Don't think I haven't thought long and hard about that. At the same time, I try not to spend too much time dwelling on such futures. It's far more likely that this particular dinosaur will take a long time to die, and that we won't see the large-scale effects of any "collapse" in my lifetime. In any event, life is filled with such ironies, but I'm no longer as afraid of them as I was in my youth.

The day will come

Thank you for another thought(ful) provoking post. I think part of what's at the core of what you believe and hope for is the attitude we all need to cultivate: no one else is going to fix "it". The future is going to require both more self-sufficiency and more community. The "lone wolf" mentality is a fiction created by advertising and the false wealth that has allowed us to isolate ourselves in home/car/cul de sac bubbles. The sound we hear is those bubbles popping.

One thing I've been intentional about recently is letting my bike-joy show. My rides are my favorite part of my day, but I realize my face doesn't always show it, so I've been more conscientious about making eye contact with drivers, especially at intersections, and letting them know I'm enjoying the heck out of doing it by bike. Who knows? For some it may be all they need to tip them out of their car and onto a bike.

I believe that generations in the future will look back on the late 20th/early 21st century and shake their heads at the waste and greed, and realize, I hope, that the oil ran out just in time.

I'm getting 3 eggs every day now, and the beds are prepped for planting the early crops. Change happens here every day.