So, a brief history of Atlanta…
So Monday I made the audacious claim that I had an idea how to make Atlanta a bikable city. I grew up in Atlanta, and I biked it in a time before there were any striped bike lanes. The shared use paths that existed (specifically and solely the path to Stone Mountain), were incomplete, interrupted and buckling with neglect. It is far easier for a highway department to repave a 12-foot lane than an 8- or 6- foot one, in the same way it is easier to paint a whole wall than the trim. They know where to get a 12 foot-wide machine to pave a lane, but not where to get one at biking scale. Separate path work is just too fine-scaled for them to pay attention until its too late for maintenance to matter.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Biking in America lately, mostly because I’ve been feeling a lot about Biking in America lately. I didn’t have the good fortune to move to a location where biking even occurs to people to build or plan for. So I live at the scale of cars, not bikes. Be that as it may, I’ve recently screwed on my humiliation and gotten on the bike four times as much in the last month as I had over the last five years.
Strength is made of a whole lot of weakness, welcomed uncritically and consumed with abundance. If I want to look like I know what I”m doing, I must look like a fool as often as possible.
I’ve been looking at the capital, maintenance and operations costs of four transportation modes (walking, biking, traffic and rail transit, natch’) for the last year or so.
The numbers haven’t changed, but my discovery and interpretation of them has. Aside from discovering that traffic costs us over a trillion dollars every year in operations, and that sidewalks are not maintained by governments, but by adjacent property owners, it has mostly been a long slog through a bunch of numbers. Continue reading
My parents visited us a couple of years ago in our place in Fairfax. I don’t think our 1967 townhouse is nearly as good as the 1927 bungalow they live in, but ours is about half the age, with more amps on the board and modern conveniences. After the greeting tour, may dad marveled at the number of bathrooms (2+1/2) and proclaimed “Y’all are so rich!”
To finish this little penny-0dreadful three-act about federal misrule, I’d like to talk for a bit about the deficit (the amount we spend over what we take in every year), and the debt (the accumulation of those deficits over time, minus payoffs. People, particularly fiscal conservatives, like me, are worried about he federal debt, which is now larger than the economy itself. Is this a problem?
I’d like to start with the authoritative assertion of one of America’s heads of state: “Deficits don’t matter”. Well, do they?
In any conflict, there are two parties trying to get their way. No party sees its goals as invalid or evil. Rather, the harder they fight, the more they see themselves as on the side of good, and their oppnents as on the side of categorical evil. Any problem we have is one party getting their way in disregard of everyone else. For each party, America’s problems are still solutions, so long as the other party is humiliated by it. Parties will keep getting their happiest result despite the needs of America until something changes.
We are not well served by winning the battle with the other side, we are better served by identifying what it is that we both want, and stepping outside of the conflict to work jovially on the agreement.
When two parties with two opinions have to solve a problem, is it better that they solve the problem cooperatively, without questioning each other’s judgement at every turn We fix problems better and faster competitively, with the two parties racing to the same goal, than adversarialy, with wide disagreement on the goal itself, and absolute distrust of many of their motives and positions.
We’d obviously solve problems better cooperatively, but I’d like to talk about something else today.
I want to step into the head of your average Tea party Republican and ask just what are they thinking?
What if the goal the two parties choose to work towards cooperatively is the wrong one? Wouldn’t you want someone to stand up to the general lunacy and say, at last, “No”. “No” to the deficits, federal overreach, erosion of values and orders that have been around for the last hundred years. “No” to a world without commitments, morals, or consequences. And finally “No” to a government that tries to equalize when it should enable, by getting out of the way, not trying to manage everything.
I agree with some of that, and disagree with the rest. I tried to put it all in charitable terms though, because scorn of my opponent is a sure way to give themt the advantage. Given that the Tea Party is made up of the better-educated, wealthier solons of their communities, we cannot assume they are incompetent rubes. They just disagree with Liberals and politicians, and they are clever enough to get their way.
So what do they really want?
Smaller, leaner federal state and local governments that keep the peace without getting in everybody’s business. If we could have that, I would bet much of the Tea party opposition to the government as it is would dissipate.
I say we give it to them.
The problem is that the desire for that government has been couched as an intervention, and not a jovial conversation. But there’s little reason why we can’t still have that better conversation.
Next time I’ll talk about the debt, deficit and stock watering. I’ll then be about ready to resume talking about what really matters.
Jazz concert reviews.
This week seems to have become all about politics. I love social media, as it allows people of disparate views to insult each other’s cherished beliefs in plain text. No one gets to type louder, and you can consider what people say for as long as you want. I really think “social media” is great for that, as long as people are open enough to read what people are saying. Just knowing that your ideological opposites are living, thinking humans is a great tonic for the body politic.
The actual political class needs some more tonic, however.
I had a sinus headache, and I did not want to write in that state. Apologies for the dilatory September.
There’s quite the hue and cry lately about the reduction in vehicle miles travelled in traffic over the last five years. I’m skeptical that this is a sea change in our transportation choices, because we haven’t really built anything differently, and the decline coincides with the worst recession and job situation we’ve had in my lifetime.
I’m not as interested in miles traveled as trips, anyway.