Friday, April 25, 2008

The Omnifuels Dilemma

People took up bicycling for transportation in the United States in the 1970s when motor fuel prices first started to move upwards from their artificially-maintained lows. As it happened, a large wad of Baby Boomers had reached young adulthood better nourished and better educated than any previous generation. They felt energetic, entitled, and willing to consider unconventional solutions.

By the 1980s we had adjusted to fuel prices and chosen consumerism and financial manipulation over self reliance and sound economy. Bicycles remained only for very light recreation, very hard competition or very disadvantaged people.

As the sickness of our road system has worsened, cycling for transportation has become more and more dangerous in many venues. As the other sicknesses of our social, economic and environmental systems also worsened, people have glanced back toward the bicycle as part of the solution. But they mostly want to get rid of expensive fuels we have to get from unstable nations, and the pollutants spewed out by internal combustion. Truly clean and cheap cars would signal the death of cycling.

I contemplated the roads around central Megalopolis with a mixture of depression and fear. No one wants a cyclist out there mucking things up. If I drove all the time, I wouldn't ether. Moving at car speed in car scale, it's awkward to accommodate some sweaty grunt obstinately muscling his (or her) way around. We would need to establish a whole new standard to integrate motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. With foreign oil and pollution out of the equation, laziness might easily fill the void. People who wanted exercise would make the adjustments necessary to get to an exercise facility. People who didn't would continue to live as they do now, getting carried from place to place by various beasts of burden. They would no longer acknowledge bicyclists as fellow strivers for a healthier planet, because cars would no longer be unhealthy for the planet.

Of course car manufacture demands more resources than bike manufacture. All aspects of car culture take more out of the planet than bike culture does. But many avid cyclists use cars as well. Even someone like me, who uses a bike for everything when time and conditions permit, keeps a car around for conditions that call for it.

Even conquering the problems of pollution and foreign oil will leave other problems -- beside those of freak cyclists and pedestrians -- particularly that of parking. That never gets enough attention. What's the big question when driving anywhere? Is there enough parking? What do we do? Build more and larger parking structures?

If we put green roofs on all our giant parking structures and all other large buildings and join them to each other, we can create a whole new surface for our planet, hundreds of feet above the original one. The underworld can be climate controlled and artificially lighted, full of scuttling high-tech vehicles like robot cockroaches. You could put your bike and pedestrian Utopia out on the green layer. Ride to the rabbit hole that goes down to your destination. Drop down, do your errand, take the elevator (or the stairs) back up and ride to the next site.

Some areas will never be densely settled and built up enough to go under the green layer. For many environmentally sound reasons they could remain at their original elevation. But building a green roof over all the densely built-out areas would be cheaper and easier than trying to dig all our cities down under the natural surface to achieve the same uncluttered look and functioning ecosystem the green roof would provide.

It would all be fabulously expensive and complicated compared to not mucking everything up in the first place, but we seem to be speeding past that exit. Most people seem to prefer fabulously expensive and complicated solutions built by "experts" after the mess is made.

1 comment:

GettingBedHerAllTheTime said...

Fug it. Blow everything up but the roads and the cyclists will rule the world . Moo who ha ha ha ha