Yesterday I took issue with the Luddite tendencies of the Tribune’s soccer-bashing sports editor, so it’s only fair (and balanced) that kudos are duly dispensed for outstanding achievements in local journalism. Consider this Sunday commentary by guest columnist Daniel Robison:
ROBISON: Switch gears for new future in cycling.
Lately a lot has been made of Louisville's supposed bike-friendliness. Profiles on the local news and stories in local publications have covered the topic from all angles recently, creating (to those who care) an awareness of all things Louisville bike riding. But what about southern Indiana; how does our area measure up?
As Daniel can’t help noticing, our local area “measures up” to Louisville in progressive dispensations made for bicycling just as well as it does in other measures of progressive thinking, which is to say, there is little sign of a pulse … and a toe tag is being prepared.
Interestingly, the youthful columnist goes on to make a telling point that has escaped too many other local observers, including yours truly at NAC:
One of New Albany's recent road improvement projects, Mt. Tabor Road, has been closed for months and still appears far from completion. With so much time and money invested in this mile-or-so stretch of pavement and with such repairs so few a far between, one would expect a definitive product, right?
But if there are to be bike lanes on this new road, then I must be blind. Sure, there are sidewalks and tidy gutters, but the absence of bike lanes constitutes a lost opportunity that will most likely not be corrected until the road is repaired again in decades …
… Many other cities across the nation have gotten the memo; the inclusion of bike lanes has been a part of new road construction for years in many parts of the country and across the world. Why shouldn't New Albany at least try to embrace this same positive spirit present in other communities?
That’s an excellent question, Daniel, and unfortunately it would appear that one of the very few ordinances that New Albany aggressively enforces is the one expressly outlawing “positive spirit.”
In fact, council persons running the gamut of legislative expertise from “C” (Coffey) to “P” (Price) presumably have the anti-positive spirit ordinance tattooed on their arms for quick and easy reference during those long council hours when lame-duck President Kochert permits rules of order to lapse as he doodles on the draft of his moribund smoking decree. You see, there’s public speaking time, city official speaking time, and personal agenda speaking time, with the latter being shared by the Bicknellian shadow cabinet minsters customarily found chortling on the back row.
Ah, but I digress.
It should be noted that the city’s planning arms have in fact incorporated bicycling lanes into at least some of their projections; bicycling paths are being included in the Vicky Ann Denschak Memorial Greenway; and one mayoral candidate, Doug England, has made NAC aware that he has a personal understanding of the issues involved and has considered prospects for future implementation.
Meanwhile, as GOP mayoral hopeful Randy Hubbard promises to study the meaning of the word “bicycle,” and entertains suggestions from citizens, most of whom don't ride one, it remains that the real answer is quite simple. Contrary to what many casual observers believe, the context of commuting to and from work and play by bicycle is as important as recreational cycling in these discussions, and that's because the most hopeful future revitalization plans for New Albany inside the beltway are inexorably linked with the sort of person who'd like to have the option of commuting by bike when possible. So ...
Until such a time as we see any single person is New Albany’s ruling structure – elected, appointed, political, non-partisan, religious, secular, secretarial or janitorial – riding to work on a bicycle, we’ll not see much in the way of “positive spirit” pertaining to a topic like bicycling.
And that’s because New Albany’s collective 800-lb gorilla, and the ultimate source of the psychosis that so degrades all our future prospects, is an utter failure on the part of government and citizenry alike to muster any degree of comprehension as to what is occurring in the larger world that lies outside their own exceedingly narrow comfort zones.
Consequently, it isn’t just that so many drivers don’t ride bicycles and lack any semblance of understanding of the issues explicated so clearly by Daniel Robison, it’s that they can’t even imagine doing so and moreover cannot imagine life outside the confines of an automobile – and if they can’t imagine it, then how could anyone else? It follows that those who are able to imagine it must be mistaken, defective, or both, and any person sighted on a bicycle must be either too poor to afford a car or restricted to riding a bike because of a mental illness, DUI conviction, bad personal credit or contrarian tendencies. It will be disapointing to many trognonymous opinion generators to learn that of these reasons, only the contrarian one applies to the senior editor.
One of the most telling recent examples of this startling local absence of empathy came when 3rd district councilman (and 36% solution) Price attempted to somehow make the case for a tighter grip on take-home police vehicles by explaining that he knows how it’s possible to waste gasoline, seeing as he does it himself driving around his neighborhood.
Of course, he might choose to walk the neighborhood’s sidewalks or ride a bike, and yet how often has Price or any other person working in the City County Building been spotted riding a bike or walking to work, or to meetings, or -- for once -- just for the sheer hell of it? Until a few of them do, expect more "Stasis-R-Us" – the official mindset and motto of New Albany.
But good job nonetheless, Daniel. Opening cans of worms in front of squeamish folks who’d rather not see them wiggle is an innate skill, and one that should serve you well in the future. Good luck in graduate school. Perhaps we should have a Progressive Pint or two before your departure?
Photos of bikes, biking and bike lanes in Haarlem, Netherlands were taken by the senior editor in February, 2007.