The other day, my mom’s neighbor saw me arriving by bike from Marin County (about 60 miles away), and told me how impressed she was with the ‘sacrifice’ I was making by not driving. I thanked her, and said that actually I quite enjoy riding my bike, as well as the relaxing time I spend on the ferry and the train, and that I was impressed with the sacrifice she was making by sitting in gridlock on the freeway every day on the way to work. She laughed, and said, “I guess that’s another way of looking at it.”
The mainstream ‘way of looking at it’ did not come about by accident. It is very much a manufactured perspective that dictates transportation social norms. Where do these norms come from? You might have guessed from the title of this post.
The details of this manipulation are described in the excellent article by Tom Vanderbilt that appeared on Slate.com last Friday about the way Hollywood depicts people who don’t drive. It would be hard to overemphasize the power that films have over people’s style and behavior- not only in this country, but all over the world. This fantasy image marketing has very real impacts in the real world as people choose to drive- not because it’s practical- but because they think it will get them laid.
Whether it’s a case of displaying what screenwriters and producers see around them every day in LA, or something more sinister (think about who profits if we drive more) there are layers of meaning behind the stereotypes of people who are car free.
Too bad for Hollywood- they will have to play catch up. Cause this movement isn’t waiting for some navel gazing producer to catch on to the fact that bikes are hot shit these days…..
Me and Four of SF's finest. Thank you NYT for picking the worst photo of me you could possibly find.
Our Arco protests received national coverage in the New York Times today. Apart from being overly conciliatory to the station owner, who is really an aggressive and dangerous man, unfair in its portrayal of protesters shouting ‘where’s your bike?’ as being vitriolic (I think inviting- perhaps chiding- would have been more accurate), quoting Rob Anderson saying basically that we hate disabled people who can’t ride a bike (the most desperate and manufactured line in the book), and saying that Streetsblog is ‘anti-car’ (I wish that they were), the piece was welcome national coverage of the blind spot that obscures our own car addiction when it comes to analysis of the reasons behind the Gulf spill.
One can always criticize media coverage- I gave Scott James numerous relevant facts and reasons for our position, which were not included. But, at least there is discussion of this issue in the mainstream media- I mean when was the last time you heard about the ‘anti-car movement?’ from CBS, NBC, ABC, The Washington Post, or The New York Times? We haven’t even had an article in the “Caronicle” (though they did publish some nice pics).
Join us this Friday and every Friday 5:30-7:30pm Divisadero and Fell Streets, San Francisco until we have safe passage for oil-free transport across the city.
I was on KPFA’s Terra Verde show hosted by Adam Greenfield last Friday. talking about surface travel, the Arco/BP protests, and what regular people can do in the face of environmental collapse. Listen here:
If anyone finds out what the past tense of ‘dive’ is, please let me know 😉
Posted in Advocacy, Car Dependence, Carbon Offsets, Critical Mass, Cruising Across the Atlantic 2009, Cycling, direct action, Global Warming, Livable Streets, Media, Nature, Oil Industry, Plane Dependence, Public Transport
By the way, I’m wearing the facemask and keffiyah to protect against all that pollution on Fell St.– any resemblance to an anarchist is purely coincidental.
Donald Appleyard always used to say that the measure of a livable street was if a cat could lie out in the middle of the road. Chances are it was a good habitat for humans as well. When Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats into Cats the following didn’t make the cut:
“Old Deuteronomy sits in the street,
He sits in the High Street on market day…
The cars and the lorries run over the kerb,
And the villagers put up a notice: ROAD CLOSED-
So that nothing untoward may chance to disturb
Deuteronomy’s rest when he feels so disposed
Or when he’s engaged in domestic economy…”
The people in my study who lived on 20,000 car/ day Muller Rd. in Bristol didn’t let their cats lie out in the road. In fact, virtually all of them had given up owning pets entirely. The heartbreak of losing them was just too much for them to bear….