Firstly, further to yesterday’s post, I’d like to thank all of you who mentioned the many memes (“many memes” is fun to say) I heedlessly omitted:
I’d also like to thank the commenter who created this:
I’ll be selling a limited run of signed* full-sized prints at $2,500 a pop.
*[Signed by Bib Shorts Guy, obviously.]
Secondly, we are living in the Age of [ahem] Micromobility, and this morning I received this press release from TransAlt:
It took place this morning in Manhattan and included various groups, or “stakeholders” as they’re called in public policy jargon:
As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in my usual tedious fashion, I’ve been commuting regularly by bicycle a couple times a week:
While of course I’ve been riding in and around the city even longer than I’ve been writing this blog (which I started in 1978 by the way), this is the first time since like 2009 I’ve had a regular commute that took me through the heart of the city twice a day during rush hour:
While my bike has changed in a manner befitting my age and stature, it is fundamentally the same in that I turn the pedals myself. Increasingly this seems to place me in the minority, and the biggest difference between commuting then and commuting now is all the zany e-contraptions whizzing by, which has transformed the bike path into a carnival of the absurd:
I have an idealist that sits upon one of my shoulders, and a pragmatist that sits upon the other. Here is what the idealist thinks about “micromobility:”
Choices are good
Alternatives to driving are good
Getting around quickly and conveniently is good
Good, good, good
Here’s what the pratmatist thinks:
Hey, I’m still the same person who defended shared scooters when all the media whores with medical degrees were freaking out about them:
Scooter fearmongering was a real growth industry for these types of people until the bottom fell out in March 2020 and they pivoted to telling people to disinfect their mail and wear masks in between bites of food.
Anyway, being the same person, I still think that all this stuff is good, and that it should be easier for people to get around on small electric vehicles and not harder. However, now that these things have been around for awhile I no longer have the same starry-eyed notions about them, and I think anybody who does is either disingenuous or…well I don’t want to say stupid, so let’s just say they’re not utilizing the full potential of their faculties. While undeniably handy, no form of e-mobility has resulted in a wholesale shift from cars, and I remain skeptical that it ever will. Like David Pumpkins, e-mobility is just…it’s own thing. Also, we’re human, and so the e-mobiles don’t get nicer and cuter and more pleasant to be around; they just get more fucking annoying:
Now that I’m spending more time in the thick of it I’m getting more and more familiar with what people are riding, and this brand is one I’ve been noticing lately. And while I increasingly try to avoid sweeping generalizations, I’m just going to go ahead and say that anyone who rides one of these things on the Henry Hudson Greenway is a fucking asshole:
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it–if whatever you’re riding makes you feel like you need a full-face helmet, get the fuck away from the bicycles and into the road with the cars:
“What’s so bad about them?,” you may be wondering. Well, it comes down to these four things:
They buzz you
They cut you off
They come at you head-on when passing
They honk their stupid electronic noisemakers at you (this may be the worst)
And yes, of course this is Not All E-Bikes (or e-scooters, or e-unicycles, or e-skateboards, or whatever other e-things people are riding). There are hardworking delivery people on those bikes where the batteries periodically explode. Their are rich people on e-assist Yubas taking kids with last names for first names to preschool. There are knuckle-dragging bro-rons in full body armor on those one-wheeled things that go like 40mph. There are commuters riding rinky-dink electric scooters that don’t go very fast at all. Some are kind and considerate, some make me want to clothesline them–like the guy on the ElliptiGO who honked right in my ear with what sounded like an airhorn. (I’m not sure ElliptiGOs are e-assisted, but fuck it, I’m including them anyway.) Hey, it’s a primordial soup of getting around, and if you ride an old-fashioned bicycle ultimately you’ve got no choice but to hoe your own row while we wait to see which of these other gizmos grows legs and evolves into something that’s not completely antisocial and offensive.
As for TransAlt’s new micromobility agenda, according to Streetsblog it’s BUILT on three pillars (because something can’t hinge on a pillar, Streetsblog–and yes, I realize I just mentioned “primordial soup” and hoeing in the same sentence):
I mostly agree with the first one. These things are here to stay, and I imagine a lot of the crap I find so annoying is a result of the lack of space. The early 21st-century bike lane concept is positively quaint by now, so the city should probably be designing streets with the understanding that these things are all over the place.
I used to agree with the second one, but I don’t anymore. (I’m talking about the financial incentives, not the parking.) Bicycles, e-bikes, e-scooters…they’re their own financial incentive. Increasingly I can’t help wondering if by promoting the idea that city and state should be giving people who ride bikes (electrified or not) all sorts of stuff is counterproductive, in that it becomes yet another excuse for people not to ride. (“Well, maybe if I got a tax break I’d ride to work…” Yeah, right.) Again, I don’t mean stuff like bike lanes, bike racks, recreational paths, etc.–this is stuff any city should have. But if you’re not riding a bike to work because you can’t take an additional deduction on your tax return or something, the fact is you’re lying to yourself, and you really just don’t want to ride a bike to work.
As for the third thing, fuck that. These delivery app companies should do that themselves–and in the meantime maybe they can let their delivery people (who do all the work but who they won’t actually employ) charge their batteries and use the bathroom in their fancy-schmancy office on Bryant Park:
But why do that when you know there’s a sucker in office that will build out your infrastructure for you?
As for the “environmental” and “climate” stuff, I guess we’re still pretending getting people to ride rechargeable mopeds is going to change the weather, how cute.
But of course nobody likes all this more than the head of marketing at Lime:
Again, I like the scooters, and obviously lots of people find them convenient. But the only thing sillier than saying they’ll change the weather is saying that someone won’t want a car anymore because they have one of these:
It’s like saying a sponge alleviates the headaches of dishwasher ownership.
And now we come to the rhetorical question portion of the essay. Should TransAlt be getting behind micromobility? Of course they should. Should the city be designing streets to reflect the way modern humans choose to travel? Most certainly. At the same time, it’s important to remember that advocates in New York City will get behind absolutely anything if they think it will take space away from cars–like those pando-era dining huts, many of which just sit there empty most of the time, but which take away a parking space or two and so have become a cause célèbre. If people were setting up open-air porta pottys on the curb so they could take a dump in the middle of the day the advocates would get behind that too and you’d read think pieces in Vox about the Shittable Streets movement. Again, that’s not to say “micromobility” is bad, but it is to say that advocates only care about the pointy end of the wedge.
As for the humble bicycle, perhaps they’ve taken that as far as they think it’ll go.