Last Sunday, I dropped by KCRW’s presentation, the one pumped as Reinventing the Wheel:the Future of Mobility in LA, which I must admit I approached with an undisguised misgiving in my heart. My fear was that it would be yet another view of the future through the windshield perspective.
This feeling was but magnified when the “ample bike parking” they touted on their website turned out to comprise precisely six (6) racks, providing room to lock a grand total of twelve (12) bicycles. Two of those were behind an outlying building a circuitous quarter-mile or so from the actual event gate, and were empty when I finally found them during my Grand Bike Parking Survey after I left the hall. There were dozens and dozens of bicycles there—invitations had gone out to almost every local bicycle organization, and LACBC was there, along with Linus Bikes and a few purveyors of electric motorcycles disguised as bicycles. So it was irritating to see hordes of bikes locked to railings, trees, poles, and parking meters all around the venue:
Also disquieting was the prominence granted to Art Center College of Design on said website. Art Center has traditionally supplied the US automobile industry with most of its car stylists.
So I was disappointed, though not surprised, when the first thing I saw upon entering the hall was a car, dominating the passageway:
An electric car, but so what? Bad as air pollution, resource drawdown, and Global Warming are, even cars that ran on magic would still wreak havoc with the land and our communities, because cars just take up too damn much room for what they do! Sprawl is as deleterious to life on both the grand and intimate scales as Global Warming.
To paraphrase a line from an old blurb of my own, titled Methadone for Road Hogs:
Maybe the problem isn’t what type of cars we drive. Maybe the problem is cars.
Cars as cars are destroying our health, our watersheds, our communities. It doesn’t matter how they are powered; they still cause vast damage.
And of course, rarely does the juice for plug-in electrics come from wind, solar, or hydro; those cars pollute, just somewhere else.
So I was pissed. But, I says to myself, maybe it gets better in the actual hall. Where the first thing I saw was…you guessed it: another car!
After casting about like an aging bloodhound for a while, I did find some bicycles…half-hidden behind—yes!—more cars:
The free beer having run out before I arrived, I turned my attention to the Panel of Authoritative Persons, two of whom even had the English accents that seem to be mandatory for acceptance into faux-progressive forums such as this one. The sound was muddled by reverberation and somewhat reminiscent of announcements on an airport PA system, but it certainly seemed that the panel started off with long, nostalgic reminiscences of the Good Old Days when LA’s freeways were new and relatively uncrowded and one could drive about aimlessly for hours with the top down. This should not have been surprising to me, and it wasn’t…because, according to the website, the panel comprised:
- Geoff Wardle: “Educated first as a vehicle engineer and then as an automotive designer at the Royal College of Art in London, Geoff has had extensive experience as a professional vehicle designer across four continents and remains a passionate car enthusiast.”
- Craig Hodgetts, who brought to the table “a broad-ranging background in automotive design, theater and architecture.”
- Harold Belker, described as “a force of nature in the area of automotive design with a list of design credits that include the Smart Car, the Batmobile for Warner Bros. Batman and Robin film, and the futuristic cars of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report including the sporty red Lexus.”
- Michael Lejeune, “Creative Director for Metro Los Angeles” and the lone, beleagured representative of mass transit on the panel.
So really, what could one expect?
Well, one could expect a lot more from a prominent and supposedly progressive entity such as KCRW pretending to discuss mobility in Los Angeles.
But the truth is that you’ll do much better reading bike shop blogs.
Which, I am glad to see, you’re already doing.