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Tilting at Windmills

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November 2, 2010

WALKING IS SO 19TH CENTURY.... It's hard to identify the exact moment Dan Maes' Republican gubernatorial campaign in Colorado reached the point of no return, but I'd argue it was early August. Maes insisted that bike paths in Denver were part of a "very well-disguised" scheme cooked up by the United Nations. He assured supporters the plot "will be exposed."

The sentiment was obviously more than a little nutty, but it's worth noting that conservative hostility towards bike paths is not limited to strange gubernatorial candidates. In a new piece for the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes insists "the road to hell is paved with bike paths." Jon Chait flagged Barnes' unintentionally amusing conclusion:

In his tabletop speech, [Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood] said he and his wife take their bikes to the path along the C&O Canal and "ride as far as we possibly can." That's nice. But it's interesting, and perhaps telling, that the canal, as a major mode of transportation, has been obsolete since the 1880s -- a lot like bicycling and walking.

Yes, that's right, bicycling and walking are "obsolete."

The things one learns reading the Weekly Standard.

Steve Benen 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Comments

Some fresh air just might clear Fred Barnes head a bit....

Posted by: ottercliff on November 2, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Watch 'Wall-E'

Posted by: Arachnae on November 2, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, Fred, any thoughts on the fact that that canal, like many in this country, was a government project that not only provided jobs, but also expanded commerce?
You know, CommuniSocialiFascism.

And ottercliff, fresh air's been whistling through Fred's ears for years, and it hasn't helped.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on November 2, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

How dare the common folk want to have a place to enjoy themselves. If we give them bike paths next thing they will want is a bike, then time off to ride them.

Posted by: Chris on November 2, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you forget to set this stupidity against this nice piece by Steven Hill in "How's Europe doing"

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/hows_europe_doing/archives/individual/2010_10/026366.php

Posted by: Vokoban on November 2, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Barnes is a DC fixture, eyet, it sounds like he's never walked or biked the C&O trail which can be literally packed with people on a weekend.

Posted by: Rich on November 2, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

One look at Fred "dough-boy" Barnes will tell you that he thinks walking is obsolete.

Posted by: square1 on November 2, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Barnes, Lance Armstrong just called and told me to tell you to "Shut the F Up, Idiot !!"

Posted by: ScottW714 on November 2, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

I hear loads of complaints about all the new bike paths in NYC. Any of the locals that drive can't stand how auto unfriendly Manhattan is. It's never been friendly but they see these under utilized bike paths as waste and excerbating an already difficult situation. Not totally unjustified either. NYC has great mass transit but if you are living in an outer borough with only lame bus service or connecting service, driving is a huge quality of life booster.

Posted by: KK on November 2, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

I thought these guys were all about a return to the 19th century.

Checking my history-of-bicycle, I see that it was much-liked by the leaders of female emancipation, so yeah, I can see where Barnes is coming from. Earlier in the 19th century, maybe, 1860. Oops, that precedes that Supreme Court decision granting human rights to corporations, I see that one simple date will just not do.

Posted by: dr2chase on November 2, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Sloth and gluttony are so 20th century. So is Barnes.

Posted by: Danp on November 2, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, everyone knows, obesity is 'hot,' and walking and bicycling are 'not.'

Posted by: Varecia on November 2, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

driving is a huge quality of life booster

For you. For the people who live in NYC, not so much.

Could you, perhaps, bike to a train or subway stop? I realize that suburban options are not always wonderful. Or, for the cost of an expensive car repair (head gasket, e.g.) you can get a really nice folding bicycle, and use it to fill the gaps in an otherwise crappy transportation network (Brompton is the top of the heap; I have never heard of anyone who owned one who did not love it, though of course it could be that the high price causes them to justify the expenditure after the fact -- but of course, a car costs 10 times that, so we might expect a little post hoc rationalizing about the value of cars, too).

Understand, also, that from the POV of running a city, your car is wasteful, too. It takes something like 160 square feet to park it, and cars regularly fill the roads to the point of impeding delivery vehicles, busses, and ambulance. Surely you have seen the picture showing how the same number of people compare fit in cars, in a bus, or on bikes? One bus, equals a block-long traffic jam, equals a smallish clot of bicycles.

Also, your car is killing you. All the risk of deep sea fishing and lumberjacking, to go with your desk job. Physical fitness is also obsolete, at least in this country.

Posted by: dr2chase on November 2, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Cars are obsolete. Auto drivers are like Wile E. Coyote standing in midair after running off the cliff.

Walking is only obsolete for the morbidly obese. To be fair, that's a lot of Americans.

Posted by: 1st Paradox on November 2, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

How dare the common folk want to have a place to enjoy themselves. If we give them bike paths next thing they will want is a bike, then time off to ride them.

No, that's not it. This is about proud anti-environmentalism. They will protest literally anything that even indirectly fails to support their "consuming oil as fast and furiously as possible is gooooood--and American!" position.

There's also a soupcon of "Help, the liberal nanny state is suggesting that I get some exercise! My freedom is being threatened by the very introduction of this topic!" And, of course, they have it on good authority that this is a big old slippery slope: Obama is plotting to make cars illegal and force everyone to ride bikes (single speed) around the internment camps.

Posted by: shortstop on November 2, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Living in one of the most bicycle friendly cities, in the US, Portland, OR, I can see many of the great accomplishments my US Rep, Blumenhauer, has done for both bicycles and trollies in Portland. However, what really has upset many seniors, including Progressives, was the refusal by the Mayor to cut our extremely high water bills in order to build more bike paths. We have had a massive sewer dig in Portland, and many millions were going to released, however, instead of using them to lower water bills, Mayor Sam rammed through an increase in all utilities by voting with his commissioners to build more bike lanes. Then, he had the audacity to not mention the furor over this at local neighborhood meetings, by scheduling a vote during the after hours of a work day, and, when, only four protestors heard about it and made it to the vote, Mayor Sam crowed that this showed the people were behind him, as only 4 folks protested. I was against the recall attempts to remove Sam as I thought they homophoebic in nature, but, he has really lost the support of the older Progressives in Portland.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 2, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

KK, driving in MANHATTAN is a quality of life benefit?? Seriously? The few times I've driven in Manhattan, I fully understood road rage. Instead of miles per hour, it's feet per hour. There is no quality of life when you are frustrated in your car.

Posted by: MsJoanne on November 2, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

KK: I live in Brooklyn and take the train everyday. So does my husband, who has to commute to Columbia U. and take three trains. It would be a helluva lot easier for us to drive, if our own convenience was all we cared about. Fortunately it isn't.

Posted by: gradysu on November 2, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

KK, driving in MANHATTAN is a quality of life benefit?? Seriously?

Manhattan's not an outer borough, which is what KK said.

Even the outer boroughs, and sections thereof, vary widely in terms of quality of public transit, though. Most of Brooklyn's is good, for example.

Posted by: shortstop on November 2, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop: Our train, the R -- the only one that stops in Bay Ridge -- is consistently rated one of the worst lines in the city. And even on a good day, my husband's on the train for an hour and a half. But I think we are probably like the majority of New Yorkers, who would rather mass-commute than deal with -- and help create -- traffic nightmares. Some cities are simply not built for heavy car traffic, and NYC is one of them.

Posted by: gradysu on November 2, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Even though CNBC says so, Manhattan is NOT the center of the known universe.

Smalltown, USA has plenty of walkers and joggers and peddlers sharing the country roads with cars.

Our local Kutztown, PA post office has ten parking spaces; two marked with the familiar handicap symbol, and two with horse shoes. (Berks Country has a whole lot of Amish; apparently they also get mail. . .)

Posted by: DAY on November 2, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

I hear you, gradysu -- there is a great deal wrong with the Chicago Transit Authority, which I use every day. But I'm always cognizant that simply having train and bus choices, all of which are walkable from our home, puts me ahead of almost everyone in the country.

Sorry to hear you're relegated to a single, badly operated line. I have many friends in Brooklyn who are much luckier with their transit.

Posted by: shortstop on November 2, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"Some cities are not built for heavy car traffic"

Ah, I see you have been involved in the Mercer Mess in Seattle, WA.

The have light rail and an excellent bus sytem, but, the geography of downtown Seattle being on a penisula of sorts and a major hub makes freeway and street connections to such a nightmare for both planning and driving.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 2, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ, how does Fred Barnes even have a job?

Posted by: PeteCO on November 2, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop: There is a great article on the WM website right now about the next real estate boom -- creating walkable cities with great transportation!

In the meantime, my husband and I get plenty of reading/work done on our subway slogs... :)

On the very rare occasions we drive in to Manhattan in the morning -- ie my husband is lugging 40 textbooks he needs to bring to students -- it drives us crazy to see all the single-person-occupant cars gumming up the BQE, West Side highway, etc. It's like these people literally live in their own little worlds.

Posted by: gradysu on November 2, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Any of the locals that drive can't stand how auto unfriendly Manhattan is.

Then they shouldn't drive into Manhattan-- that's pretty simple. Lots of people I know in the outer boroughs have a car, but they leave the car at home when going to Manhattan. Even when I drive to Manhattan, I leave the car parked in a non-metered spot and use the subway or walk for the rest of the day.

Posted by: Tyro on November 2, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting how so many RepuGs find light rail, trollies, even the excellent Esplanade walking area on the east side of the Willamette River in Portland to be "Boondoggles", but, yet, find, as Tim Eyman in Washington State, 14 lanes in each direction freeways to be money well spent.

Yes, PeteCO, the Fred Barnes of the many "Be over in three days" for events in Iraq.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 2, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Then they shouldn't drive into Manhattan-- that's pretty simple.

Last time I was in Manhattan I was amused to see a local guy jump out of his car, run over to a rental minivan trying to make a left turn in Chinatown, and yell at the quivering driver, "WTF is the matter with you? You're from Kansas, aren't you?! Admit it! Admit it!" As with most New York utterances of this type, it was delivered with high energy but no malice.

Posted by: shortstop on November 2, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Fred Barnes is certainly consistent. Always an idiot.

Posted by: sparrow on November 2, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Not much different from New Yorkers who have moved to Vegas and consider any pedistrian or bike rider to be "Fair Game". Walk sign comes on - Caution, never never step off that curb until checking for incoming driver driven missiles.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 2, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

There's also a soupcon of "Help, the liberal nanny state is suggesting that I get some exercise! My freedom is being threatened by the very introduction of this topic!"

You forgot "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" ;-)

Posted by: Gregory on November 2, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

bert: Wow, you can actually tell who the "New Yorkers who have moved to Las Vegas" are! Did all these people inexplicably keep their NY plates even though they no longer live in the state? Otherwise, I hope you're putting your psychic powers to good use in LV!

For the record, the only place I was almost run over was in LA, where possibly they simply don't expect to see pedestrians at all.

Posted by: gradysu on November 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

They really are afraid of bikes. Here in Illinois, Mark Kirk has been running an anti-Giannoulias ad that has three big spending scare points: 1) $800 billion for stimulus, 2) $500 billion in Medicare cuts, and 3) $3 million for bike racks in Washington, DC. Yes, those numbers are correct. Kirk's putting the bike rack thing on par with proposals that average about 200,000 times its size. And this isn't something Giannoulias even voted for -- he's currently the treasurer of Illinois and presumably expressed support for some spending bill or other that included this funding. The first time I saw the ad I thought it must be a parody, or part of some intricately crafted series. But, no; they just hate bikes.

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on November 2, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

For the record, the only place I was almost run over was in LA, where possibly they simply don't expect to see pedestrians at all.

I think sidewalks might be against city ordinance there.

And I haven't found New York drivers to be careless with pedestrians at all. Bike messengers in every major city, on the other hand...;)

And so we come full circle. Hee.

Posted by: shortstop on November 2, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Walking and biking may be obsolete now, but I suspect they'll be making a BIG comeback in the future.

Posted by: Gaia on November 2, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

It's a much different world when you walk though it at 3mph.

Posted by: delNorte on November 2, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

gradysu, I have met many a New Yorker in sports books in Vegas. They can get a little testy after their trifectas run out at any NYRA track.

However, interestingly, LA used to be a very safe place for pedistrians. Then, two things happened. Newcomers tried to take advantage of the autos having to stop, by stepping out at the last second, and newcomers who arrived in LA without any driving experience from where they had emigrated. Areas around Monterrey Park and Alhambra were very dangerous with all of the new drivers arriving from Hong Kong.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 2, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Canals have been obsolete since the 1880's???

What about the Panama Canal, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Suez Canals - three of the most strategically vital waterways in the world? I guess somebody ought to tell all of those barges and tankers I see transiting the Cape Cod Canal every morning on my way to work that they are all sooo 19th century!

Seriously, do these people ever stop to think before making public statements?

Posted by: Chesire11 on November 2, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

In Barnes' meager defense, it seems he was saying that walking and bicycling are absolute "as a major mode of transportation."

Posted by: Justin on November 2, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

i just voted here in Alaska. i don't own a car and it's much too cold to bike. i hitch-hiked (talk about outmoded transportation)seven miles to my polling place and back. it took 45 minutes. please get out and vote. thanx steve benin for your daily input.

Posted by: gravitymike on November 2, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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