We’ll Always Have Paris

The recent attacks by Daesh in Paris were horrifying, but…Paris has seen worse than this. The City of Light was occupied by the Third Reich during World War Two, and survived both the Nazis and the Collaborationists. When I lived all-too-briefly in Paris in 1982, it was undergoing a wave of bombings, shootings, and stabbings related to the conflict between Israel and the various Palestinian factions. It was the first time I saw ordinary cops standing on streetcorners holding submachine guns.

Paris survived, as it survived the Reign of Terror that followed France’s own revolution back in 1789. In that case, the terrorists were all native French.

Paris survived, and it is still the beating heart of enlightened liberalism. As long as it doesn’t let Daesh push it towards becoming a police state, we’ll always have Paris.

But let us not forget that cities all over the Middle East experience similar horrors every week. Unless we stand in solidarity with them as well, there will be no peace.
As others have noted, it is Daesh that the refugees flooding Europe’s borders are running from. Those people are our natural allies. They are not religious zealots; they are liberal Muslims who want to live in a liberal society, a society where people have choices. Daesh is a faction of hierarchical conservatism, often but not always associated with religious fundamentalism. (Mao and Stalin also practiced it.)

What do bikes have to do with all this?

Simply this: the movement to accommodate bicyclists, walkers, and transit users on our streets in an inherently liberal movement. Human-scale development—Complete Streets, Vision Zero, et al— supports personal diversity, small local businesses over corporate chains, and individualized development of neighborhoods. Automobile-centric planning requires standardization of street types, and a homogeneity that supports the economies of scale that corporations depend on.

In the United States, at least, the (hardly) “all-powerful bike lobby” stands for a human-oriented pattern of neighborhood development; the opposition, with its hate-filled rants, represents hierarchical conservatism that is not yet brave enough to resort to overt violence. But don’t the threats of violence towards cyclists, shouted from behind the veils of Facebook, sound much like the actualized promises of terror groups such as Daesh? Isn’t what the NIMBY’s preach nothing but intolerance, the exhortation that we should all be just like them? Or be crushed under their wheels? This is the baby version of “convert or die.”

We are not stopping bullets here on the streets of Los Angeles. (Well, not often.) But we are trying to stop the kind of public behavior that could very well eventually lead to bullets: the kind of minor terrorism that claims a right to run us down if we’re “in the way”—infidels that we are. Stopping that can be our best statement of solidarity with Paris and Beirut: to uphold the liberalism that allows for each to live freely in harmony with her neighbors. In harmony—not in unison.

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4 Comments

  1. Scott Zwartz
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    The people who complain about Mobility Plan 2035 are now being branded as potential murderers? We are filed “with hate-filled rants, represent(ing) hierarchical conservatism that is not yet brave enough to resort to overt violence.”

    Let’s see how this rant stacks up against the actual objections which HELP and CCLA have made against Mobility Plan 2035.

    (1) Mobility Plan 2035 is based on fatally flawed data and wishful thinking. Those are the words which Judge Allan Goodman used to describe the same data on which the Hollywood Community Plan was based. HELP’s and CCLA’s lawsuit asserts that the City plans for the future should be based on reliable data.

    (2) Mobility Plan 2035 urges that we install bike lanes on major thoroughfares who the toxic fumes from cars and trucks are the most concentrated. HELP’s and CCLA’s lawsuit said that the City had a duty to study the adverse health impacts on bicyclists where the Bike Lanes are placed on heavily traveled avenues and boulevards. HELP and CCLA contend that LA should not place Bike Lanes in places which harms the health of the users, and therefore, in deciding where to place Bike Lanes, the City needs to gather and publish data on air toxicity.

    (3) On June 16, 2015, The city issued a call for technological companies to submit proposals for the creation of an enhanced Internet WiFi system through the City of Los Angeles. Because this type of telecommunications is becoming a mode of transportation, HELP and CCLA asserted that the City had the duty to include a study of “Virtual Presence,” Cisco type ‘Telepresence” into its plans for Los Angeles future transportation. According to a City study in 1993, an viable Tele-Transportation next work could reduce traffic congestion by 30%. Despite the fact that the City is already taking initial steps on Virtual Presence, the City concealed that fact from the public. HELP and CCLA believe that the public has the right to participate in these types of decisions and they should not be made in secret in back room deals among political cronies.

    HELP and CCLA do not recall their making any hate-filled rants to harm people who ride bikes. Since HELP and CCLA are composed of regular LA residents, they do not see themselves as some form of “hierarchical conservatism that is not yet brave enough to resort to overt violence.”

    HELP and CCLA have said that the City’s plans for the future should be based upon facts and that the process should openly discuss all aspects of Los Angeles’ future transportation needs.

  2. Posted November 20, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    A passionate and well-written screed from Mr. Zwarts, complete with an air of polite indignation. Too bad most of it is counterfactual.

    I do not recall mentioning HELP or CCLA in the article, but if Mr. Zwarts identifies with my descriptions of more generalized reactions nationwide to Complete Streets and bikeways networks implementation, that may in itself tell us something. I do know that, unless you have blinded yourself to the flow of vituperation coursing through Facebook, Twitter, and the comments section appended to any story on the matter, you know that the threats are real, and often enacted. I have posted mild but still appalling instances in an article here. These are cloaked as “humor,” but more serious threats abound in social media. I am personally acquainted with two Angelenos subjected to motorized attempted murder (Jen Diamond), or manslaughter (Don Ward).

    As to the false assertion that you wish to exclude cyclists from the roads they overpay for for their “health,” because arterials are more polluted than side streets…well, an actual study in Copenhagen showed that cyclists breath in less street level pollution than do occupants of cars, which suck in “air” from tailpipe level and concentrate it in the vehicle’s cabin. So if you reallycare about road users’ health, you should support efforts to allow drivers to switch to bikes if they want to.

    Finally, you assert that decisions on road use should be based on facts—something with which we concur entirely. I recommend you spend a few days perusing the numerous scientific surveys and investigations into the effects of road diets, bike lanes, traffic calming, and so forth in real-world cities all over the US and Europe, so you can have the facts at your command. I have helped gather a number of these, from a multitude of sources; they are available here.

    TheCalifornia DOT has admitted that simply throwing lane-miles at congestion actually makes it worse. We need to reconfigure our streets to allow for a choice of travel modes, and the choice to live in p;aces where radical mobility isn’t necessary. (It was never really feasible.) What we don’t need is to engage in social engineering projects that force people into cars. We’ve tried that already, we tried it for over eighty years, and it just doesn’t work.

  3. Scott Zwartz
    Posted November 21, 2015 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    To use parlance which may resonate with you, your mental rigidity reminds me of Torquemada.

  4. Posted November 21, 2015 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    You’re a humorous fellow, Mr. Zwarts. Let’s see…I direct your attention to a plethora of studies supporting my position (none of them done by me or anybody I know, just a variety of academic and investigative organizations). Your response is to compare me to the Grand Inquisitor, in other words, an ad hominem argument.

    I’m hoping to open the streets to a rich variety of transportation modes, by supporting the changes developed by thousands of people in hundreds of cities, and tested in real-world contexts.

    Your side seems to be saying, “No changes! Only one way! Cars are the One True Path! Keep roads the way they have always been.” (“Always” being a very short time in this case, about half a century.)

    So who is refusing to look through the telescope, Mr. Zwarts?