Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Cherriots and the Mayor Pretend to use the Public Bike System

Yesterday Cherriots posted what is, at least on the surface, a perfect instance of a Potemkin ride:

via Facebook
It's a very short loop of only a few seconds and, especially with the reverse action, it's supposed to be whimsical. As something playful, it would be wrong to make too much of it.

And yet in a fundamental way it seems wrong-footed and an illustration of the way the City is going to sideline the system and sideline bicycling. It leans away from the total system and its utility, away from something deeply connected with transit.

The loop as published is mainly signalling, and only illustrates the idea of bicycling, not an actual ride, or something that is obviously part of an actual ride. They are up on the empty concrete pad immediately to the north of the bus mall, and not actually in the street. Though it probably does not meet the strict definition of bicycling on downtown sidewalks, which except for police is illegal, it is insufficiently distinct from that, and might give the idea that bikes are ok on downtown sidewalks.

If we don't want people on the sidewalks, why don't we
make comfortable place for them in the streets?
More to the point, it does not show the Mayor actually using a bike to make a trip on downtown streets. Like getting off the bus and going the last few blocks on bike to the real end destination. They are playing! Which can be a fine thing. But play is not "saving time, saving money, and saving the environment." The clip fails to take the bike system seriously in this way. Instead, it shows the bike system as toy, rather than as transportation tool and something useful.

In the end this does not actually show care for bicycling or the environment. Rather, it participates in the autoist move to displace people on foot and on bike, keeping them off the street, and shunting them to parks and paths. It is structured to avoid the conversations we need to have about changing downtown streets so they better serve all people who might want to live in or visit downtown. With too much signalling and not enough substance it's the wrong kind of marketing.

Last night I was walking in Minto Park, and there were so many people on bike. This was great to see, but I hated it also, because I had to spend way too much energy being aware of and anticipating faster moving objects. Some people passed slowly and carefully, but others zoomed by carelessly. I just want to walk there, and the way we are promoting the park for bicycling is a problem.

Especially for adults, bikes belong in the streets, and the real problem is our autoism that makes people avoid the streets.

I want to see the Mayor using Ride Salem on Commercial Street downtown in traffic with the sharrows, and in the bike lanes on the curves on Trade/Ferry Streets with truck traffic. And if not, why not. In that case City leadership should be willing to say why this is problematic and not a satisfactory solution. Then I will know the City really cares.

Until then, clips like this are just Potemkin shows.

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