I read a quote this morning on the blog Roads Were Not Built For Cars. The quote, by Senator Chauncey Mitchell Depew says:
“I imagine that one fine morning we shall wake up with apparatus ready to take us to our offices by an automobile carriage…But…I cannot conceive our active Americans adapting themselves to the pursuit of pleasure in carriages moved…by any other motor but the horse. What has made the bicycle so universally popular but the one fact that it permits of action on the part of the rider, that it affords excitement?”
It made me think about the fact that cycling is indeed a whole lot of fun. However, it becomes less fun because I must share the roads with 2-ton motor vehicles whose drivers have both a deep sense of entitlement to the road and who are, more often than not, less than competent to operate their vehicles safely (at least in my experience).
It got me to wondering how life would be if cars were simply gone - taken up by some kind of supernatural force. All of a sudden roads would be a lot safer. People wouldn't have any reason to be afraid of cycling - there would be little to fear apart from maybe a few bumps and bruises from the occasional collision with another cyclist, or from the occasional fall. I wonder how many people would take up cycling if our national road system existed purely for cycling? Even if there were a faster alternative mode of personal transport (hey, whatever happened to the flying cars we were promised in the 1960s anyway?), my guess is that there would be a whole lot of folks who would choose to pedal.
It seems to me that the automobile is little more than a burden on society. Over the past century we've built a dystopia based on automobile dependency, and it's ruining us. I reckon the sooner we're rid of motor cars, the better-off we'll be. Sadly, I don't think it will happen in my lifetime. But thanks to rising gasoline prices, my daughter may be a bit more fortunate (as long as our society can effectively manage the decline of the age of oil).