A simple plan


If you’re looking for someone to blame for bike lanes, look in the mirror.

That’s in effect what the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is saying in a recently released document called the Massachusetts Bicycle Transportation Plan.

MassDOT has developed the Bike Plan “to be an actionable investment strategy to guide its decision-making and bicycle infrastructure investments, as well as support municipalities to improve bikeability.”

The plan lists an “action-oriented strategy” based on three key principles.

“First, reverse the decades-long practice of prioritizing automobile travel.”

The next time you’re stuck in an interminable traffic jam, try to be grateful for your decades of priority status. You are the reason we now need bike lanes.

Just as most Americans haven’t bought into the universal appeal of soccer, the vast majority of us have somehow managed to resist the magical allure of adult cycling.

Americans continue to prefer the automobile, with its promise of individual freedom. It’s part of our DNA, which some regard as just another of this country’s many flaws. That’s especially true in the era of climate change, which is used to justify all sorts of retrograde technologies from windmills to bike lanes.

Indeed, climate change is cited as a primary rationale for the steps laid out in the Massachusetts Bicycle Transportation Plan.

“Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, and motor vehicles are the primary source of these emissions,” the Plan informs us. “The most environmentally friendly and sustainable transportation options are zero-emission ones like walking and biking.”

Don’t forget skateboarding and those red, Radio Flyer wagons. Are we going to create separate lanes for them too?

As you putt around town in your Honda on a mission to destroy the planet, you won’t see very many cyclists – certainly not enough to justify creating entire travel lanes for them.

But you just don’t get it. The state assures us that if we build them, they will come.

“Academic research, national polling, and data collected through Bike Plan outreach activities confirm that a majority of people would consider biking as a viable travel mode if the routes to their destinations were safe, comfortable and convenient from start to finish.”

Most people would “consider” skydiving too. How many ever jump out of a plane?

“MassDOT took great care to engage and listen to existing and potential bicyclists throughout the Commonwealth,” we are told. I wonder if they listened to anyone else.

Big Brother wears spandex and a helmet and he works at MassDOT, where they’ve made bike lanes a mandatory part of any state-funded road or infrastructure project, whether the public wants them or not.

But bike lanes do have some local supporters. They tend to be the same people who lecture us that because of today’s busy lifestyles, people just don’t have time to attend Town Meetings or vote in elections. But now, suddenly they have the leisure to live their lives at 8 mph, biking to work and then cycling to shop at Whole Foods before pedaling off to yoga class.

There is even a term for this in the Bicycle Transportation Plan. It’s called “Everyday Biking,” defined as “riding a bike for everyday travel.”

I haven’t biked every day since I was 16 years old and got my driver’s license. I have no desire to regress.

I even sold my Radio Flyer.

[This column originally appeared in the August 1, 2019 Wakefield Daily Item.]

5 Responses to “A simple plan”

  1. 1 Gail Ollila

    Change is going to come whether it’s welcome or not.

  2. 2 Anthony Antetomaso

    I’ve resigned myself we’re simply outnumbered by the hordes of people fully intent on making every effort to force everybody else to live like them. These people never give up and they never run out of things about ME that only their superior personality can correct. Actually I find it incredible that we all must drop what we’re doing and run down to the town hall to stop STUPID things from happening. Honestly I can’t wait to retire and move to a more sane locale.
    This state is completely out of its collective mind. And it’s getting worse. Just a couple more years and I can retire. I marvel that you can sit through those town meetings without exploding. I used to attend. Now, work prevents me from attending these Dope-a-thons. But why would I give up a peaceful night with my wife to go downtown and get aggravated by finding out I’m in the overwhelming minority — AGAIN?
    And what were our choices? To get the “FREE” money we had to have bike lanes. Do you think you’re going to convince the average moron in this town to pass up FREE MONEY over bike lanes? Look at the Middle School – sold to us as only costing half of the $50M price-tag. Once we bought in to this slickly arranged boondoggle the cost suddenly exploded another $25M. Gee – color me surprised! And so many IDIOTS actually thought they were getting “free” money from the State.

    Just like 350 other cities & towns are. Hello, McFly??

    And where does the State get that money from? Taxes from the Harkoonians on their interstellar freight that passes through our airspace? We’re drowning in a sea of stupid. And those rising waters are much more the product of State education than any imaginary Anthropomorphically-generated Climate Change!

  3. 4 Amy

    Hi Mark
    Wasn’t sure where to post this but was curious your thoughts on the bench situation downtown. I’m not up on town gossip, so wondering what the feeling is about the constant gatherings of men loitering around the benches all day long.

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