Friday, September 26, 2008

Critical Mass

It was the last Friday in the month, so here in Springfield, Illinois, some friendly people got together to ride through downtown Springfield. We joined up with the group and took part in the Critical Mass ride. These are some photographs of the event.

Critical Mass is a global celebration of bike riding.  In a town like Springfield (a little over 100,000 residents) it's possible to get around on many errands by bike, and if the city were designed to encourage human-powered transport, people could probably use bikes for much of their transport instead of relying on carbon-fueled automobiles. Do you know how many people die each year in automobile accidents?  About 42,000 motorists, 4,900 pedestrians, and 700 cyclists are killed each year in this country. Cars have their uses. Traveling more than 5-10 miles?  You'll usually need a car.  Need to pick up something bulky or heavy?  You'll probably need a car?  Is there a rain storm or blizzard?  Yeah, you're better off in a car (or bus).  But when the weather is fine, or your trip is relatively short, a bike is a sensible mode of transport.  If people used bikes for their short rides (say, under 5 miles), and the transport infrastructure was built to facilitate this as a way-of-life, think of how many lives might be saved. People would be healthier. Cities would be quieter. 

For two years I lived in Taiwan and used bikes, buses, and trains to get around. I've used bikes and buses to get around rural Denmark, urban Beijing, and for four years when I lived in Urbana, Illinois, I almost exclusively used my bike or city buses to commute to work. 

If you want to do something to reduce global warming, use public transport, bicycles, and your feet to get around as much as possible, and reduce your use of private internal-combustion engine vehicles. You can also reduce your consumption of meat, that would help as well. And, advocate for more bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly urban planning and city design. We need more bike lanes, bike trails, and wider sidewalks.

  The deaths caused by automobiles touch all of our lives. I had a family member killed by a car while she was crossing a street in San Diego.  While I was a high school student I had a girlfriend whose father had been killed while riding his bike home from work. The Critical Mass movement reminds people driving cars to be on the look out for bicyclists, because people on bikes have the same right to the road as automobiles.

No comments: