Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Might These be My Final Public Thoughts On Bike Lanes?

Well, after reading the latest round of hurtful comments directed at a few of our City Councillors, after having gum thrown at me while riding home yesterday, and after watching one Councillor shamefully try to spin the bike lane issue to his political gain, I'm done.

I'm done arguing.
I'm done being nice.
I'm done.

Which in all honesty, pains me to say.

Here's a little background about me. I'm a husband and father, a citizen of Red Deer, a believer in the overwhelming power of the planet, and a person dedicated to helping bring about effective change for a sustainable future. I'm a professional Environmental Educator with nearly 20 years experience. I teach my kids to think critically, to discuss issues rather than shouting about them, and to live with as little impact on the earth as possible. We as family bike, walk and bus to work and school - year round, try to do most of our errands without resorting to using the truck and spend as much time playing outside as we possibly can.

One of the things for which I am incredibly proud of myself, is the completion of my Masters of Arts degree (in Environmental Education and Communications) last year. In the course of my thesis research I found that there is a huge loss of hope, or more correctly, a major sense of hopelessness amongst Environmental Educators. It seems counter-intuitive that the people most directly involved in creating change among the citizenry, would feel that their efforts were failing. I had personally never felt that hopelessness and helplessness. Every time I deliver a program or take someone for hike, snowshoe, interpretive bike ride or give a talk to large or small groups, I come away feeling energized. I feel that I'm truly making a difference in my community and in by extension, in the world.

And then came along the bike lane issue. Or rather, along came a group of people who want to argue, name call, abuse and generally fight against bike lanes in the most base, banal manner possible. And the sad thing is, it's not a huge group of people. Many of the concerns about bike lanes have been well-thought-out and well-reasoned. I myself had initial misgivings about one of the routes (you can read about them further down). Council doesn't need people fawning over them and stroking their egos. What they need is intelligent feedback. Just as there are some cyclists who give the bulk of us a bad reputation, this group of zealots is overshadowing the reasoned arguments and giving the balanced people a bad name.

This small, outrageous, rude and tactless group of people has created a culture of antagonism, fear-mongering, and divisiveness around the bike lanes, that is usually reserved for American attack-style politics. They have turned what should be slightly uncomfortable growing pains that can be worked through by reasonable people, into calls for firings of City bureaucrats and demands for the heads of elected officials.

What's really sad though, is the the lack of imagination that this group has; the inability to see a future where we don't have as many cars on the road. This group of people is so married to the status quo and to an ideal that says you have to drive everywhere and that car culture has supremacy, that the mere thought of having to wait for an extra traffic light sends them over the bend. And, best of luck to the cyclist who ends up in front of them on a city street because they're on a route with no bike lane. I would bet heavily, that the most hateful comments are written and uttered by the same people who attack bicycle commuters for merely trying to get to work and school.

So, I'm finished with the issue. I'm not writing about it, talking about it or generally opening myself up to the kinds of attacks being suffered by Paul Harris, Cindy Jefferies, Craig Curtis and others. I'm climbing on my bike, putting my head down and riding.

Please don't throw anything heavier than chewed gum at me.


Red said...

Awesome post! You're preaching to the converted here. Why don't you put this in the paper?
Never give up! Never keep quiet! Always go for what you know is right.

Derek Olinek said...

I think you're reacting to the minority of "bike lane detractors". I believe the majority of Red Deer drivers have no issue with the development of bike lanes, but rather question what they perceive was a lack of critical thinking about their placement.