Happy Sunday. It’s time for my weekly homily.
Anthony has been hosting an online book club discussion of Dr Jason Henderson’s book Street Fight, on the history of transportation politics in San Francisco.
Last week’s discussion centered on the three broad ideologies that inform the views of mobility politics in San Francisco. According to Henderson, progressives approach the world through empathy-based values and are most willing to radically challenge the status quo to address problems like environmental degradation and economic inequality. San Francisco progressives are most likely to directly challenge the idea that automobiles are an essential and inevitable part of any transportation network.
Henderson classifies his second group as neoliberals, who participate in laissez-faire capitalism and desire transportation systems that maximize their accumulation of wealth. They understand the limits of automobility in terms of environmental damage, congestion, resource unavailability, and practicality for sustained profit. They want to steer the transportation debate in ways that grow their financial capital and investments. I suspect most readers of Cyclelicious identify most closely with the neoliberal classification: you believe climate change has the potential to wreck modern financial systems and we talk about studies showing increased retails sales when bike lanes replace car parking. We want good transit and bike facilities to get us to our jobs, reduce the external costs imposed by out-of-control car traffic, and increase the value of our property after the white stripes of gentrification transform blight into a desirable neighborhood.
Finally, Henderson notes a pronounced conservative discourse in San Francisco’s politics of mobility. The first freeway revolt was not driven primarily by the progressive ideology of livability, but by middle class home owners who feared falling property values if a freeway came through their neighborhood. The axiom that automobiles are necessary for commerce and family transportation is also at the heart of modern day opposition to parking removal and lane restrictions.
Conservatives put more emphasis on individual responsibility. Automobile ownership fits well with the conservative philosophy of individualism and direct personal responsibility. I’ve argued that the bicycle is even more individualistic than the automobile, but another aspect of conservative thought — that individuals should insulate themselves from the greater society into their own families, churches and clubs of like-minded people — further encourages individuals cocoon themselves in their “cages,” as some cyclists disparagingly refer to cars and SUVs.
All of this reminded me of a gentle poke that the Christian creators of Veggie Tales made toward this insulation from the world in the song “Gated Community.” Enjoy.
Nice post! And excellent use of Veggie Tales!! Those “Christian creators of Veggie Tales” seem to be a pretty decent bunch.
as a conservative cyclist i have a different viewpoint on things. I ride because i’m a selfish lazy cheap person who wants to maximize my time on this earth 🙂