Disclaimer: this isn’t really connected to teaching at all, but does have to do (as I supposed the last post did as well) about popular conceptions of history and the way it plays into contemporary political discourse. In this case, the issue isn’t about the Tea Party’s notion of the Founding Fathers, but is instead about a very local battle over the presence of bike lanes in Arlington, TX — the city directly to the east of where I live.
For something that seemed so commonplace on the streets of Salt Lake City, where I grew up, bike lanes evoked deep passions on both side of the issue amongst Arlington’s citizens, spawning the anti-bike lane group, Save Our Streets, and the pro-bike lane group, Bike Friendly Arlington.
Additionally, bike lanes have also gained meme superstardom status in recent weeks thanks to this YouTube video:
Now, I’m firmly in the pro-bike lane camp. Bikes, and the additional construction of lanes and parking to accommodate them, have been a huge part of revitalizing and popularizing Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth, which is the northern end of my Fairmount neighborhood. (For details on these developments, and all other things urban-related in Fort Worth, check out Kevin Buchanan’s excellent FortWorthology blog).
Bike lanes have been a boon for the businesses on Magnolia and they’ve also fostered some really wonderful bike-centric communities that have been incredibly friendly and welcoming. In short, I think they’re a great thing and I find the opposition to them pretty perplexing and rooted in an unappealing notion of what makes a “good” community.
So, last night was the big Arlington City Council meeting where the vote took place to decide on whether to approve a $55 million bike and hike master plan that would expand and improve the bicycling amenities in Arlington. By a tight 5-4 vote, the plan passed, and while I didn’t make the meeting, many of by bike-community friends did and played an important role in advocating on behalf of this infrastructural element that makes cities more livable, friendly, recreation-oriented, and open to forms of commuting and transportation other than the automobile.
In reading the article about the meeting and the vote, I found myself bemused by Arlington Councilman Mel LeBlanc’s attack on bike lanes:
“The city of the future is not the city that puts bike paths in,” LeBlanc said. “It’s the city … that has a very low tax rate and a very low debt ratio. The city of the future is the city you can move to and not be robbed by taxes.”
The Futurist’s joy in the simultaneity of experience summarized the change which, as our own century opened, was pressing in upon all sides and was symbolized by the revolution of communications: railways, the automobile and even the bicycle – the culture of space and time was being transformed.
Additionally, very recent scholarship by Bernard Vere has honed in exclusively on Futurist representations of the bicycle.
So, perhaps LeBlanc needs to get into the 21st century (and learn something about the past hundred years) and recognize that even century-old notions of the future have always included the bicycle.