A cyclist’s lot in New York’s scrag end is not a happy one. Winter is long and harsh, safe parking is hard to come by, and most municipalities regard an occasional “Share the Road” sign as the epitome of cycling infrastructure. Even when a village proves uncharacteristically generous—invariably with somebody else’s money; the notion of spending local taxpayers’ dollars on cyclist safety would only elicit laughter—the result is seldom anything to celebrate. A case in point:
This is a North Country college town’s much-ballyhooed bike lane. It’s a narrow, steeply cambered berm, ice-covered in winter, choked with drifts of sand in spring, and garnished with broken beer bottles in summer and fall. It also boasts deeply recessed storm-drain grates scattered along its short length—ideally placed to sharpen cyclists’ bike-handling skills. Best of all, it ends abruptly, leaving the through-rider with little choice but to joust with speeding cars on a shoulderless, serpentine “rat run” between the university campus and the crossroads hamlet that serves as a sort of upmarket dormitory for the college faculty.
Bad … Continue reading »
If you read the editorial pages of small-town America’s local papers or scan the websites of rural chambers of commerce — an exercise that will appeal to only a tiny minority of masochists, I’d imagine — you’ll encounter a lot of conspicuous lamentation about the decline of Main Street. The villain is usually the latest big-box store to pave over a wetland just outside the town limits. Or else it’s the Internet, that deadly Web spun by corporate spiders for the sole purpose of entrapping innocent citizens in its sticky meshes. If these evil forces didn’t exist, Main Street would be free to flower once again. Or so the boosters’ argument goes.
A mischievous critic might be tempted to ask why the feckless locals abandoned their friendly, accommdating Main Street merchants to rush off to the big-box stores and online retailers in the first place. Lower prices played their part, of course, as did convenience. How many working couples really looked forward to spending half their weekend trudging from shop to shop in search of the necessities of life — … Continue reading »
You don’t often hear the phrase “Renaissance man” these days, but it’s a pretty fair description of Marcos Netto, TNO‘s Southern Hemisphere Correspondent. His is an enviable CV: corporate executive — he’s a director of Itati, a Brazilian mineral water company — linguist, professional photographer, and Rotarian. But Marcos is also an avid cyclist who regularly saddles up to commute to work. In fact, he’s become a sort of evangelist for cycling, never missing a chance to draw attention to the bicycle’s role in reducing urban pollution, easing traffic congestion, and promoting public health.
Here’s an example: Not long ago, Marcos was asked to take part in a television program on cycling. I could try to summarize what he had to say, but it’s Marcos’ story, so why not let him tell it in his own words?
I was invited by TV Unisinos for a live interview on the Conexão Unisinos 12 O’Clock News to discuss the topic “Bicycling for a Less Polluted World.” The other guest was Professor Felipe Brum de Brito Sousa. Both of us are “regular people”
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Imagine a town without parking lots or designated parking spaces. Any motorist hoping to do business in town would then have to park by stealth, on private property. Often his car would be obstructing a sidewalk or alleyway, and he could never be sure that it wouldn’t suffer damage in his absence — or that he’d find it where he’d left it when he returned. The property owner could have had it towed away. Or the police might have confiscated it. The motorist’s car was almost certain to be parked “illegally,” after all. Which means that his complaints, if indeed he had the temerity to voice them, would at best be met with a shrug of an official shoulder. Outlaws are foolish to expect protection.
Unthinkable? Think again. This is the common experience of anyone who uses a bicycle to commute or do business in the States. With a few happy exceptions, cyclists are condemned to park their bikes on private property, in unsanctioned locations, hoping against hope that their two-wheeled transport will still be there … Continue reading »