Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Criticism of "Transportation Advocates."

I do not think it is OK to be a alternate transportation advocate and still drive a car most of the time. Most advocates are biking, walking, and using mass transit as much as they can and that it good, but some are not.

Seems like everyone wants a "green" world but is not willing to pay the price. Excuses are rampant in the advocacy community like a bad virus; "its too hot or cold," "I don't have time," "it might rain," " I would be all hot and sweaty," "my allergies are acting up," "there is a unhealthy air alert," blah, blah, blah.

Don't freak out, these are all excuses I use to use when I owned a car.

I am happy there are many advocates in the world that promote alternative transportation. I am very unhappy most of them are "when it is convenient/ when I feel like it" hypocrites.

It seems to me that to have the things they want, like better mass transit, bike lanes, complete streets, walkable communities, etc, that they, the advocates, are going to have to lead by example. i.e., If you want the bike lanes then you are going to need to get out and ride your bike for transportation, in all weather. Bikes lanes are silly if there are no bicyclist using them.

Why should a city government spend money on bicycle and pedestrian lanes and paths if no one is using them, or only uses them when the weather is nice?

If the advocates are walking, bicycling, and using mass transit, the more likely the cities will be to make them a reality. But the Transportation Advocates must lead the way. They our the "Captains" of the team, being the captain, they must also be the most motivated player and must lead by example. I would think the advocates would be more persuasive in their presentations if they are living the change they want to see in the world?

Credibility. How much credibility will you have  if you show up to events or meetings in a car?

I realize there are valid reasons to use cars, two sides to every view point, and legitimate excuses. I recognize this, but I say, if you, no, we, what to make the world a better place we have to lead by example. Lead full time, Advocates, not part. It won't be easy, but you can do it.

Are you really committed to your cause? Or just partially.



  1. Which advocates are referring to? All of the advocates I know and work with are indeed walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Personally modeling the behavior you want others to adopt is a basic foundation of good advocacy.

    We might not all be 100% car free, but that's OK because zealotry isn't the same thing as advocacy. The important thing is reforming the city so that everyone of all levels of ability have real choices about their transportation and can use the mode most appropriate to the destination.

  2. I tend to agree with you on this one, Bill. It is important for the advocate to practice what he or she preaches. But the 100% car-free rule may be an unfair litmus test for an advocate's devotion to the cause.

    I wish I was more car independent than I am and I drive/ride fewer than 5000 miles a year in a car, including interstate trips. I even chose to ride my bike to St. Louis in June because I didn't want to drive. But my fiance and I own one car and it comes in handy in certain circumstances.

    Just as a side note, I had to deliver some documents to the MoDOT district office out in Lee's Summit on Monday. Since I had plenty of work to do besides this delivery and that biking it would be nearly an all-day affair I checked the transit schedule. This was before noon and the next bus to get me there didn't depart midtown until 2:30. And even then, the bus dumped me off four miles from the office. At the end of the bus route, the suggestion from google was to, "drive four miles to your destination." As if I had a car waiting for me at the bus stop! Even with that imaginary car, I still would have arrived at the office right as it closed at 5:00PM. Then I would have to get back home!

    So it was either spend six hours on the bike or the same amount of time (plus a two hour wait) on the bus and still bike an eight mile round-trip in the middle. I used the car. I hated it.

    In this case I could have mailed the paperwork. But occasionally I have to be there in person.

    Sadly, the environment that we have built here is not conducive to a completely car-free life for the average person. Transit is nearly non-existent and roads through the exurbs are less than friendly to cyclists. This is why the advocate exists.

  3. But I do see that you said, most of the time. Yes, advocates must walk the walk.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  4. I will continue to count myself as an advocate for bicycling although I do not make all my trips by bicycle - gasp! Yes, I own and use motor vehicles when I choose - based on time/distance, people and things carried along, yep and weather too. Sometimes I walk. Occasionally I use commercial airlines, buses and trains. I even traveled by boat last week. It's about choice; some trips work by bike, some don't. Deal with it.

  5. @eric rogers- I hear what your saying but disagree on the zealotry part. I believe we must be more active, less passive with the advocacy. I would like to see more advocates who are zealots for change. I see the two as the same.

    @eric b- thanks, I realize there are times to use a car, and situations, I understand that. i would hope all those advocate leaders look at the car as a last choice for transportation and teach that thinking to others. My fear is one of the KC advocates going to a school or business to teach a class on "bicycle commuting" and one of the students saying "How did you get here?" "why did you drive?" "how far do you live from here?" etc and losing credibility. Also I am looking at the big picture-the advocates represent not only Transportation but they are responsible for affecting change in these other areas; health of people, pollution and environment, promoting community. If they are not living what they preach...well I think you get what I am saying. peace.

    @ Jim-Have we met? I get your sarcasm.I deal with "it" everyday-I realize I may come across as preachy/ pushy. If I offended you, I am cool with that. I am fighting for the health of the planet, healthier people, saving money, supporting local community, and just to clarify-I have to smell the exhaust of the cars at all the intersections, I fear global warming, sick of the noise pollution, watching people who are in such poor health barely able to walk, horrified by the people and animals being killed by people in cars who are focused on speed/ talking on phone, and texting, and seeing small community businesses fail because people drive out to suburbs to give their business to national chains in urban sprawl. To me these are serious issues that must change. I am not anti car, I am anti fossil fuel car. But I do appreciate your comment and can tell you are not one to get easily offended. :)

    @ all advocates: I appreciate all the work you are doing-Thank you.

  6. We may have met; I am poor at remembering names. I am, and other bicycling advocates should be, active with the League of American Bicyclists (LCI#185) and my State (CBC and CABO) and local (San Diego) bicycling advocacy organizations - though most of the people involved do own/use cars. Maybe have other connections; both born in 1946?

  7. Bill,

    I make it a point to use (almost exclusively) the form(s) of transportation I endorse.

    I can't speak for others who teach classes, but I know that I always show up to class on a bike (often carrying 80lbs of stuff)... with the exception of last week when I found myself stuck in a torrent of flood water and had to be evacuated out by car. I would have made it had I not been carrying my computer in my pannier. Boo!

  8. Advocating alternative transportation in this environment is really irreverent at this time.

    Public transit is being cut back, there are too few safe roads to travel via bike, and the few bike trails people feel comfortable riding are few and far between. I think it falls on you advocates to kick city hall in there ass to put some serious money towards dedicated public transit and bike lanes. Because all I've seen lately is the posting of bicycle lane signs and painting the shoulder 'bike lane' is like giving a horse stripes and calling it a zebra. It's still a horse, and biking on the roads still make people feel uncomfortable(and buses) and by encouraging alt. transport when people don't feel comfortable with it is irreverent. The solution should serve the people first, and the planet second. Let's try to take care of each other, before we save the world, Captain Planet.