“When you’re born to run, it’s so good to just slow down.” –Steve Winwood, Back in the High Life Again
Since I started cycling everyday in 1997, the original attraction–the insight of the bicycle as a transformative tool–keeps getting stronger. I’ve learned that in spite of my love, there is no bike friendly paradise out there that already exists for us. We have to build our own world.
Rules to govern power differentials in spatial relationships is key for encouraging more walking and cycling. IMBA (the International Mountain Bicycling Association) offers a simple principle for the trails to direct respectful relations. “Descending riders yield to climbing riders.” ( https://www.imba.com/ride/imba-rules-of-the-trail ) With speed comes the responsibility to control it. On roads, the LAB (League of American Bicyclists) has a similar principal governing orderly flow of traffic. It’s called “First come, first served.” “Everyone on the road is entitled to the space they’re using. If you want to use someone else’s space, you must yield to whoever is using it.” ( https://bikeleague.org/content/traffic-laws ). Education is one part. Instilling the discipline to apply these principles is another. Policies prioritizing safety over speed are mechanisms. Safety is a mindset based on self-respect and respect for human individuals.
Prioritizing safety over speed is based on recognizing our limits as a species. We evolved in nature for slower moving activities. Mechanical assistance brings in a level of responsibility we are not automatically equipped to handle. So training and knowledge becomes essential. Nature shows us we have biophysical limits. Travel systems such as the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train, in Japan have achieved an admirable degree of fast transport and system safety by controlling variables. To keep using our roads and trails with a high degree of autonomy and freedom, we have to implement principles, and be disciplined and restrained to protect people.
To achieve the outcome of a transportation system with all kinds of choices, and safety and dignity for all, we have to focus on the process of following basic principles. I think we have a head start in America since the idea of respecting the individual is so strong and powerful, and we also want people to set out and explore our country. It seems a vital necessity. If we focus on the process and applying what we know, it feels so good to slow down and enjoy life everyday.
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.
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