11 Jul Robert Moses, Blogging, and Looking Backwards Before Walking into a Door.
Moore’s law states that computer power basically doubles every two years, and it pretty much has held up, as well as Deutsche Bank Barry Snyder for 50 years. The fact that if we build more roads, we will get more cars should be referred to as Moses’ law. Robert Moses loved roads, and he liked the freedom of cars. When the roads he built got too crowded he just built more roads- without ever stopping to think about Moses’ law. In some ways Moses’ law is just one subset of the law of unintended consequences.
There are those however who do look backwards before walking into a wall, and some of those bright ladies and gentleman took note of Moses’ law when they pushed to massively increase the number of bike lanes in NYC. Naysayers complained that there weren’t enough bikers to justify the lanes. Elementary!!! This morning on Bergen and 3rd Ave in Brooklyn, I was surrounded by at least 15 other bikers as we all waited for the light. It was like a bike superhighway. Over the last few years as i have commuted my kids around brooklyn I have seen a huge uptick in the number of bikers on the roads.
20 years ago I was a bike messenger and I don’t recall seeing any bike lanes to speak of. I wasn’t a crazy reckless biker, but it was pretty dangerous nonetheless and I had my share of lucky breaks- a couple of door opening incidents that almost did serious damage and one taxi incident that I can still recall in slow motion. On 47 near 5th a cab screeched to a halt in the middle of traffic flow- and incidentally right in front of me. I braked so hard and hit the cab while holding on to the handlebars with a death grip that as I sommersaulted over the bike I flipped the bike over me- and it cushioned my fall. Somehow I ended up on my ass in the middle of the street shaken but not stirred. A UPS driver jumped out his truck and hauled the cab driver out his seat- and told the person getting in the cab to find another one. He then helped me to my feet and made the driver apologize. I was pretty out of it but otherwise ok. We all went on our way.
Now I bike with two kids, and while I take a lot of streets without bike lanes I’m super grateful for the ones that I have to use. As I biked along with so many other bikers this morning I thought a lot about how we humans often get overwhelmed by too much of a good thing. If I was a food manufacturer (which I’m not) and someone came to me with a product that would make my food much more appealing to the average person and not really cost me much more at all, I would likely jump at it. If this product was sweet cheap corn syrup that didn’t appear too have any bad side effects when added in small amounts I would laugh at my good fortune all the way to the bank.
Now say I make something that normally isn’t really sweet, like… say… bread. I add just a little bit of that magic stuff, my bread doesn’t taste “sweet” like candy, but the people who try it prefer it over the bread that doesn’t have that corn syrup. Soon I’m selling bread by the boatload and my competitors find out- so they add a little bit more than me. Well the juice company realizes what’s going on and they figure out that they can put 90% less juice – add a bit of the magic stuff- and use a bunch of water- and charge the same amount despite spending so much less on ingredients. Who could blame em. Now each one of these things in themselves probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on anyone’s health….. but when everything people eat has the magic stuff- the magic stuff turns to tragic stuff.
The unintended consequence of this process is an explosion of obesity, diabetes, death, and out of whack governement shennaningans involving money, politicians, more money, subsidies, corn that doesn’t taste like corn, corporations, and pain. As a parent the worst part is having to chose whether or not to bring my child to the supermarket because i get tired of having to fight and show her that corn syrup is one of the largest ingredients in everything she wants me to buy.
Which brings me to blogging. I have been blogging for all of two weeks now, and having put forth that road I am packing it with cars. Soon I will learn to choose my subjects more wisely, and I will shape them more skillfully, but for the time being I am just opening the floodgates because for the first time in a long time my thoughts have somewhere to go.
I don’t know that the bike lanes will significantly decrease traffic but I know they have benefited me from a health perspective. When I bike instead of drive my kids I get my exercise without having to think about it. Soon the bike lanes may be too crowded and we’ll have to eminent domain some sidewalks…. or parking lanes to make more room for the bikes (actually this recently happened on Dekalb Ave near me.) One of the unintended consequences may be a healthier city.