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Love at First Sight

So there I was yesterday, riding my bike home through some neighborhoods that I have rarely, if ever, visited before. The ride itself was routine: one eye on the cars to my right, alert for the sudden opening of a door, the other eye monitoring my left flank, where cars were passing with an uncomfortably small margin or error. With both of my eyes thus occupied, you might not think that I would be able to see anything in front of me, but our brains are miraculous sensory processing machines, sorting, filtering and combining vast amounts of data into a surprisingly reliable guide to our immediate environment.

So I saw her well before I actually reached her: her graceful curves, her open, welcoming mien, her smooth, unblemished face. I was so overwhelmed by her beauty that I literally stopped short, too awed at first to approach. As I stood there agape, my left foot still on its pedal and my right foot grounded, as if to steady my fluttering heart, I sensed—no, I knew, knew to the very core of my mitochondrial DNA—that she was waiting for me. Indeed, I’m not normally one to spew a lot of new age nonsense about kismet and cosmic master plans, but I could tell immediately that the universe had placed her there in anticipation of my arrival, and that she was eager to take me in her embrace, to have me and to hold me, to selflessly help me attain my goals.

And so, after regaining my composure, I rode forth once more, shorn of hesitation and robbed of all fear, and when I finally touched her, she was everything I had ever dared to dream of:

The Promised Land

I tend to be such a pessimist that I figure it’s easier to deal with our streets as they are and fight with drivers for territory than to hope for major redesigns of our streets that would reduce car traffic and dangerous speeding, and encourage bicycling. So I’ll admit that I generally just suffer (and occasionally rant a bit) instead of taking part in the pro-bicycling advocacy that we have so much of around here, but you get a sense of what the world could actually be like when you see the above bike lanes (lanes! plural! three of them!) in Alameda, or the ped-and bike-friendly street redesigns that are popping up all over Manhattan. (My reaction to the 9th Avenue bike lane when I first saw it last year was similar to my reaction to the bike lanes shown above, and I did take some pictures, but the photos at this must-read SF Streetsblog post are a lot better).

The fact is that it shouldn’t be so hard to remove a car lane and install a protected bike lane on a few well-chosen routes across all of our cities—all it takes is a few city officials who adopt this as a pet cause, and a small group of highly motivated citizens who work to mobilize support among the public, help come up with smart plans, and prod our cities to keep their promises. So maybe I’ll finally get down off my high bike and show up to one of the many meetings where people are working on the nuts and bolts of implementing these sorts of plans. If the last depression produced a legacy of bridges, parks and buildings which still enrich our lives 75 years later, why can’t this depression produce a legacy of bike paths, bike lanes and improved streetscapes that will enrich our own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond?

Maybe that’s too much to hope for, but when one is feeling the excitement of new love, almost anything seems possible.