This blog was started explicitly as a transit blog. (That logo up there? It's a bus stop.) I started writing because I truly, passionately care about our transit system in Riverside. The bus and Metrolink got my wife and I where we needed to go for many years, and there hasn't been a time when I'm not thankful that I live in a place that provides safe, convenient and cost-effective public transit. I think that public transit is essential to the present and future of our society, and I genuinely enjoy riding the bus- it's a great time for me to catch up on reading, playing the odd video game on my cellphone (I have an NES emulator- Super Mario 3 anyone?), or just relaxing and staring out the window.
The way that my advocacy efforts and this blog have evolved over what has been a nearly two-year run so far have me a bit concerned, though. After spending some time in the Los Angeles livable streets blogosphere, and the greater movement, I see a lot of focus on bicycles and bicycling. On this blog, I do discuss bicycle issues (I am a cyclist after all), but I think it's important to make sure bicycles are put in their proper place in a balanced transportation system.
Don't get me wrong. Bikes are awesome. They're cheap, reliable, easy to use, easy to repair, produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, require next to no space to park, and make short trips a breeze, even in suburban auto-dependent hell. They're also a lot of fun, and a great way to get some much-needed exercise- I have lost a couple of inches around the waist since I started cycling for transportation seriously. Bikes are certainly part of the solution, but they are not the whole solution.
The automobile, despite its shortcomings, is a fantastically versatile tool. I have made trips in an automobile that range in destination from the corner store to Vancouver and Brooklyn. We're talking about a transportation system that allows for any vehicle owner to make a journey of nearly any length at any time they choose, and that is something powerful and seductive. I firmly believe that the costs of such mobility far outweigh the benefits, but we need to keep in mind just how impressive a tool for transportation an automobile is, when we are advocating for alternatives.
We will not replace the car with any one mode of transportation. This is not a situation where we can simply swap car for bike and move on. Walking, cycling, local buses, express buses, intercity buses, BRT buses, light rail, heavy rail, commuter and intercity rail, and even taxicabs have their place in the car-free transportation toolbox of the future. I understand that bicycles are "cool" right now, but bikes are simply one piece of this puzzle. We can't favour one mode at the expense of all others- that's how we got into this mess in the first place.
And moreover, we can't neglect certain modes of transport in our toolbox, especially those that are ubiquitous, cheap and versatile. I speak, of course, of the bus. Many who advocate for transportation alternatives today will happily walk to the store, get on a bike or ride a train, but boarding a bus is essentially out of the question. This is unacceptable- the bus is a fact of modern alternative transportation, and for good reason. Riding the bus is currently associated with the extremely poor, and we must work to change that. The fact that Riverside has a Bicycle Advisory Committee and yet no Transit Rider Advisory Committee is very telling- local politicians want to know what cyclists need in infrastructure, but they assume they know what bus riders need. (That's service to the welfare office, social security and unemployment of course.)
In summary, I don't want this to become a "bike blog." Yes, bikes are awesome. No, bikes won't solve our transportation problems alone. Bikes are useful- bikes on the bus, many times moreso. We must, as a movement, put aside the stigma of the bus and work for an efficient, balanced transportation system using whatever tools are available and appropriate.