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On Biking: yes, bicyclists are taking over the streets

The Boston Globe: On Biking: yes, bicyclists are taking over the streets

July 18, 2011 09:57 AM

By Jonathan Simmons, Guest Columnist

I’ve decided to come clean and fess up: Yes, bicyclists are taking over the streets. All streets. As of next Friday, cars will be banned from the streets of Boston, and I mean all cars, Prius and Hummers alike. And I mean all city streets, from Arlington to Zamora.

Motorists fretting that we’ve been secretly plotting to get rid of cars, you were right. Yes, we do own the roads. Henceforth, anyone caught operating a car, bus or light truck (unless powered by vegetable oil or solar panels) within city limits will be required to pedal around town in a pair of Spandex shorts that are one size too small.

Cars are kind of convenient, sure, but so was asbestos. We don’t use asbestos anymore, either. Those of you who get your morning cup of coffee and donut at the drive in? No problem. Starting now, you will ride up instead of drive up.

Some citizens have contacted me, concerned they won’t be able to afford a bicycle. For these people, we’ve instituted a cash for clunkers program. You bring us your car, we’ll give you a credit for the purchase of a new bicycle.

“Why now?” you may ask. For one, we’re just tired of being treated with disdain. We’re also done with being buzzed and pushed to the side of the road. The popularity of bicycles in the late 1800's helped spur construction of roads. (it’s true: look it up). All cyclists are doing here is reclaiming that which is rightfully ours.

What has the combustion engine done for us lately, anyway? It has despoiled our land, contributed to global climate change, made our cities far less livable and caused a range of health effects that cost us billions of dollars.

But these are mere quibbles. The most important reason to park your car is that it doesn't show off your spandex. Everyone knows cyclists love to wear Spandex. On the bike, at the job, or while doing housework, that’s what we wear. This is why cars are just wrong: what’s the point of wearing Spandex when you’re behind the wheel and no one can see how cool you look encased in a sleeve of Lycra?

Motorists accuse bicyclists of being smug and superior. Good news: out on your bike, well, you’ll be smug, too.

Some of you are wondering how you will ride your bike in Boston in the winter. This isn’t San Diego, you say. The good news is you can purchase studded tires. They’ll let you cruise up and down icy slopes.

How will law enforcement patrol our streets? Police bikes.

But how can we clear the ice for our Stanley Cup champions? A dedicated coalition of cyclists are learning to retrofit the Swan Boats.

What about the Fenway bullpen cart? Pedi-cab.

So am I describing utopia or dystopia? In truth, I don’t want to impose this car ban on our community. The truth is, I like cars. I even own one, and secretly hope to buy a sports car some day.

In all seriousness, the problem isn’t bikes, cars or pedestrians. It’s people. This means it’s all of us. We need to find a way to share the road, to make our cities liveable for everyone.

How to get there? In the long run it’s investing in the infrastructure that will make our streets safer for everyone: bike lanes, better public transportation, and traffic calming, to name just a few.

In the short run: education and enforcement. That means everybody stops for red lights (whether you’re on 2 or 4 wheels), everybody obeys the speed limit, and everyone in motion treats everyone else with respect. Lawbreakers need to be ticketed and fined.

Otherwise this self-appointed Street-Czar just might have to ban all cars and bikes. Consider yourself warned.

Jonathan Simmons is a Brookline psychologist and avid cyclist. His book on cycling will be published next spring by Cadence Press.