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.