As an environmentalist I have decided to begin weening myself from the automobile. And I know such an undertaking won't be easy, considering that the region is not designed for environmentally sensitive transportation.
Recently I have been riding a bicycle around town, something I haven't done since I was a kid in Vista. The reasons for this lifestyle change are many, the chief one being my relationship to automobiles and traffic court. It seems respect is needed when dealing with both. But that's another column.
First impressions are usually honest takes on the state of things, my new reliance on self-propelled transport is no different. It is safe to say that I have a new respect for cyclists. It is dangerous out there. Roads in North County are not designed with bicycles in mind, and that is a problem.
Having just returned from running my first bunch of errands, sans automobile, it is clear to me that there are alternative forms of transportation available. If only local cities would encourage these cleaner forms of mobility. The only thing separating cyclists from vehicles hurling down Highway 101 at 45 miles an hour, is a thin white line. Being environmentally friendly is not safe, in a land where cars are king.
Bike lanes should not be placed on the asphalt as an afterthought. By providing safer riding conditions perhaps more residents would start utilizing less polluting forms of transportation. This is not to say bike lanes belong on the freeway. More to the point, creating extensive bicycle corridors will help prevent surface streets from becoming as overcrowded as Interstate 5.
For over a decade now North County residents have heard about a system of bike trails. Most often the talk is about placing a bike bath along the rail corridors. The problem is, up to now, that's all they been doing, talking. This in the midst of freeway crowding, neighbors calling for speed bumps, stop signs, and for roads to be widened. Automobiles are getting all the attention, even though they are adding a great deal to North County's problems. We are now at the "throwing good money after bad" stage of development.
Logic tells me that bicycles need less infrastructure, and that they are healthier for the heart, mind, and spirit. Logic also leads one to believe that a bicycle is less invasive on both your wallet and the environment. What logic doesn't address is how people can so easily cling to something that is significantly adding to the build up of green house gases and global warming, not to mention the proliferation of pavement.
By making neighborhoods more cyclist friendly, we also make those neighborhoods proportionally more pedestrian friendly. It also allows residents to become more familiar with their community. Bicycles reduce the distance a consumer will go for services. This in turn will encourage neighborhood businesses, while helping to reduce the amount of automobile trips.
While I was studying in Bath, England, I lived in the village of Larkhall. In no way did I ever need a personal car. What wasn't in walking or riding distance, was easily accessible by bus or train. The reason I bring this up, is to show that it is possible to live comfortably without being chained to the latest model of fossil fuel burning technology. Our dependance on private automobile is slowing choking Southern California, in a myriad of ways.