Bicycling and wealth

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Monday, September 24, 2007
By Yokota Fritz


When American troops landed on south Pacific islands and New Guinea during World War II, they brought many of the comforts of home with them: Hershey bars, radios, powdered milk, and SPAM. The island natives saw the this cargo arriving as if sent from heaven when Sea Bees bulldozed airstrips through the jungles and men with radios and signal lights directed cargo planes to land on these strips.

Commuters Panda When the American G.I.s left after the end of WWII, the manna from heaven stopped flowing. In attempts to get cargo fall from the sky again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors and airmen use. They carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses.

Last week, the city of El Paso, Texas debated the merits of a bicycle parking requirement for new development. While councilors Steve Ortega and Beto O'Rourke supported the proposed ordinance, councilman José Alexandro Lozano apparently is a throwback to the cargo cults of old, equating automobile ownership with personal wealth when he noted that a Mexican town where many people rode bicycles was regarded as backward. Clearly the path to prosperity and progress is to appear wealthy, if Lozano is to be believed.

Meanwhile, truly progressive and wealthy regions such as Silicon Valley and Boston increase their push for bicycling as transportation. A study in London shows that rich people bicycle more than poor people.

Quit worrying about keeping up appearances and hop on a bike!

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Comments:
El Paso is my home town (I live 50 miles away in Las Cruces) and it has a strong car culture. They added bike lanes near my old house and the residents went into a frenzy about how they were wasting space and needed to be removed. Maybe they were right. Nobody seems to use them.

It is unfortunate, but, from my biased point of view, this part of the country thinks that cars are the only way to get around and the cities were designed as such. When I do commute on my bike, I don't feel very safe.
 
I've been through El Paso a few times and I was really surprised to read that tidbit about El Paso's resolution to become the least car-dependent city in the USA.
 
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