…human inventions are magical in that they give life to what heretofore had no existence. Our good working ideas have the capacity to direct our lives in a manner indistinguishable from any other reality. —Cormac McCarthy, “Cormac McCarthy Returns to the Kekulé Problem” in Nautilus
The invention of cycling is a remarkable achievement. Along with walking, cycling epitomizes sustainable transportation. Human beings are designed to move under our own power. Walking is the most basic transportation. A bicycle is the most basic vehicle. By designing our cities and streets around the concept of serving walking and cycling well, we improve all types of human mobility. It is the long-term solution to our current transportation challenges.
This song by Rush, Subdivisions, reminds me of the world I grew up in. It sometimes felt alien, partitioned, and anonymous spending so much time in automobiles. A new degree of culture is emerging that commands our respect for the inalienable freedoms of human movement. The culture that embraces an array of transportation opportunities dramatically improves our travel safety, and revs up our lives and economy. Multimodal transportation–serving all travel modes–is the new helm. This framework brings health, sustainability, and builds community. It’s a saner world, one where we are not incessantly rushing, but spending time doing things that truly bring us joy, and listening more to what our bodies have to tell us.
An article in The Guardian today mentions “vehicles are now America’s biggest CO2 source”. It discusses reducing emissions and improving efficiency, but not increasing walking and cycling. It’s not an either/or proposition, it is about viewing walking and cycling as priorities, absolute necessities, basic public goods. Without serving those choices, we are left with a conundrum. We’ve learned structuring cities and streets around cars reduces choices. Walking and cycling make healthier, happier people, and better places. They’re good choices. Everyone yearns for health, happiness and freedom. Elevating the idea that streets are for people makes many transportation problems disappear, and creates a system that matches our human potential.
We need to get more people experiencing cycling to open minds. It is a key technology for sustainable development. Cycling aligns with the beautiful necessity of our human nature. We are an animal designed to move with our legs. The bicycle unites that reality with an ingenious tool. Cycling is magical, like having wings or discovering new superpowers. It changes the way we experience and perceive the world. Cycling joins the power of wheeled locomotion with the sensitivities and keen pleasures of being human. By designing our streets to serve walking and cycling first, we’ll give rise to a new form of built-environment that connects us through our activities and makes our spirits soar higher. Once we obey the concept of designing cities for wellness, our culture can expand in new directions, giving our dreams real leg power.
Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu
Happy New Year!