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‘Some might say there is a war on cars…’

by Ted Johnson

CadherentHere’s a de-facto case study illustrating the UK side of Stacey Moses’ post, Bicycle Commuting Incentives: US v UK:

Cadherent Ltd is a UK-based CAD, multi-media, design and drafting company that participates in the country’s Bike2Work program, with 80% of their staff participating.

[T]he bike racks outside… are crammed with cycles, courtesy of the Bike2Work scheme. And [David Thompson, Managing Director of Cadherent] has not only boosted the green credentials of his firm, … but acquired a fitter, leaner and healthier bunch of workers.

Commute By Bike

If you clicked through and read the previous article, you might have noticed the phrase “environmentally-friendly bicycle.” Well, I did anyway, and I thought, Isn’t that a tautology? Then I remembered seeing this earlier today:

Commute By Bike

Sacramento Sustaninal BusinessThe Sacramento Area Sustainable Business program has added a ‘Transportation & Air Quality’ category to it’s certification process. Businesses can get the certification if they do ten things that encourage “vehicle trip reductions and improve air quality.” Presumably they mean emission-producing vehicles. Three of the recommendations are:

  • Encourage employee bicycle commuting—offer secure areas for bicycle storage.
  • Provide customer bicycle racks.
  • Provide lockers and showers for employees who walk or bicycle to work.

Yuba, maker of cargo bikes (as well as an advertiser on Commute By Bike) is one of nearly 300 businesses and organizations participating in the program.

The full list is at SustainableSacramento.com

Commute By Bike

New York City Department of TransportationOh TV News, will you ever tire of manufacturing hyperbolic “War on…” slogans?

The New York City Department of Transportation aims to:

…double bicycle commuting over 2007 levels by 2012 and triple it by 2017. In New York City 10% of auto trips are under one-half mile, 22% are under 1 mile and 56% are under 3 miles – distances readily served by bicycle. Subways can be crowded, buses may run late. Free yourself and get there by bike.

Fox News in NYC labeled this a “war on cars.

Of course, it’s prefaced in their classic “some might say” qualifier. But, really Fox, how about a quote from a real newsworthy person?

 
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7 Responses to “‘Some might say there is a war on cars…’”

  1. BluesCat says:

    I’m with you, Ted. Viewing the video, listening to the empty talking heads in the studio, reading the article … and doing it several times …

    Where in the heck do they get this “War on cars” stuff? How in world do MOTORISTS become some sort of victims in this controversy?

    Oh … wait … I get it: this is FOX news; blind supporters of anti-bicycle Super Righties (“REAL men drive 5 mpg SUV’s”) everywhere.

    I wanted to grab that clown who was whining about the bicyclist who rode by, and wasn’t in the bike lane, spin him around, press his nose up against the delivery truck which was parked in the bike lane behind him and say “LOOK! Pinhead! YOU try to defy the Laws of Physics and occupy this space at the same time as this truck!”

    • Ted Johnson says:

      @BluesCat: What’s funny is I hadn’t even seen the video until you mentioned it. I’d only read the text of the Web page. So when I complained that Fox hadn’t quoted a “newsworthy person,” I didn’t mean to denigrate the people who they did interview in the video portion of the story. However, no one in the video used the phrase, “war on cars.”

      This whole, “some might say” device is just a tactic to thinly veil the opinion of the reporter and/or the network. It means, “We–this so-called news organization–are saying there’s a war on cars, and we want our viewers to perceive this issue through that frame.”

      The talking heads seemed very impressed that the reporter could do two things at once (bike and talk). Heck, if you can’t do two things at once, should you feel qualified to operate a motorized three-ton metal box through any area populated by cyclists and pedestrians? Seems downright irresponsible.

  2. sirwnstn says:

    Fox needs to be a bit more clear in their reporting. In densely populated areas like New York City, and my own hometown, San Francisco, you can bet your car payments that there is a war on cars. Traffic is aggravating, and parking is horrible and expensive! So Fox can rationally make their argument about the denser cities, but it’s not true about the rest of the US. There’s no war on cars in the mid-west where it’s a 15+ mile drive to the supermarket.

    But to be fair, one can’t ignore the mood that is sweeping the nation that cars = CO2 = “evil”. I’m sure that’s what Fox is (over)reacting to. To the average American, car = freedom (look at LA). We just need to politely teach our fellow Americans who like to watch Fox News that in places like NY and SF, bicycle = freedom.

  3. Ted Johnson says:

    @sirwnstn

    The whole “war on cars” framing portrays the issue as a zero sum conflict–when it’s neither zero sum, nor necessarily a conflict.

    You can create the perception of a conflict when you focus only on the costs, and not on the benefits.

    In this case, the “cost” to drivers is that they have to adapt to the presence of cyclists and cycling infrastructure.

    The individual and collective benefits of cycling have been listed innumerable times, so I won’t repeat them here. If NYC achieves it’s goals for increasing bike use, motorists will hardly regard it as cycling prevailing in a “war.” On the contrary, motorists will be the beneficiaries of reduced traffic.

  4. Rider says:

    Actually, I didn’t hear the phrase “war on cars” in that piece.

    In fact, the guy on the bike was sympathetic to the need for bike lanes, and he noted that he beat the Fox truck negotiating NYC traffic.

    The anchors made it abundantly clear that they would not be caught dead on the bicycle, but that’s standard fare for local TV news.

  5. BluesCat says:

    “On the contrary, motorists will be the beneficiaries of reduced traffic.”

    Boy, howdy, isn’t THAT the truth!

    Not long ago, I was sitting at my outside favorite Starbucks, discussing this very subject with a fellow who owns a regional transport company and one of his drivers.

    Since my bicycle was parked right behind our table, the conversation worked its way around to the point where the driver said the classic “I don’t understand why we should spend money on bicycle stuff when we need to spend it on better roads and bicyclists don’t pay for the roads!”

    I was going to launch into my regular response to that:

    “I have FOUR cars and FOUR bicycles; I figure I pay my fair share. Besides bicyclists DO pay for the local roads they use if they buy ANYTHING and pay ANY sales tax.”

    But the company owner beat me to the punch. He wagged his finger at his employee, shook his head and said “No, no. If we could get more people on bicycles on a regular basis, the money we’d ALL save on repairing roads, and the money the company would save on truck repairs (from bad roads), would more than offset the cost of trying to license bicycles.”

    I kept my mouth shut.

  6. Ted Johnson says:

    @Rider: The phrase “war on cars” appears in the text on the Web page that accompanies the video.

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