My access to the internet was intermittent during our family road trip over the past several days, but I did pick up some snippets from the blogosphere on my phone. This from a Nissan executive via Commute By Bike blog: car culture is fading.
It is true that our little retail operation has sustained itself and grown under the motto of urban cycling, when others said it couldn't be done. It is true that this year the shop has had the best season ever, by a wide margin. It is true that when I have occasion to travel into the Loop, I am amazed by the number of cyclists pouring out onto the streets at rush hour.
When I look around at how people actually live -- many of my friends, relatives, people in my neighborhood and others like mine -- I don't see many signs of change. Children are shuttled to school in SUV's regardless of the weather, sometimes over a distance of less than a mile. The inconvenient and cramped parking lot at the wildly popular new Whole Foods in my neighborhood is always packed, while bike racks stand unused. When I walk to the bank, grocery, coffee shop or mailbox, all within eight blocks of my house, my neighbors pull up and offer me a ride. When they see me riding my bike with a basket full of groceries, they chuckle and remark: "on your bike again, heh?" When my husband used to take our son to school on a trailer bike, fellow parents clucked in admiration, but it was clear that most would not attempt a stunt like that.
One or two other parents eventually tried taking their kids to school by bike. One (ONE!) of my neighbors rides his bike to Whole Foods. An older couple who live around the corner are seen walking all over the place with their backpacks and totes. So is a lady with long gray hair, who even ventures as far as the post office and the library, which are over two miles away.
In our small ways, we push the boundaries of acceptable behavior. In our society of predictable patterns and fixed expectations, biking or walking -- not for health, or fitness, or a cause, but just to get somewhere -- is a subversive act. And those of us who engage in it, even if we do so without any particular plan or agenda, are perceived as being subversive. As we weave our way through traffic, and negotiate our way through a larger community in which we live, we find our spaces in between. Between lanes of traffic, between the street and the sidewalk, between cracks in the pavement.
If we are tenacious enough, will we dislodge the car culture? Maybe. But it hasn't happened yet.