“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.” – Mohandas Gandhi
Gandhi never actually said that but a lot of people think he did and life sort of works this way, so I’m going to run with it…at least for this post. It’s a natural barometer of sorts that measures the winds of change. How close to victory are we in our endeavor? Are they still ignoring us or are they in attack mode?
I think those of us who envision an America where active transportation is the norm are winning. Fewer people are ignoring us or laughing at us and more are screaming. They’re using weapons of mass distraction, attempting to divert away previously earmarked funds. That’s how mad they are.
These people have always screamed at us to get off their roads, but now they’re screaming about other things as well.
- You bicyclists need to be licensed.
- You should be required to buy insurance.
- You’re a bunch of elitests.
- There aren’t enough of you to justify spending money on bike paths.
- Yada, yada, yada.
They’re screaming because they see the world they’ve mindlessly bought in to slipping away and they don’t know what to do about it. We’re winning…and not just in Davis and Portland and Minneapolis. We’re winning in New York and Chicago and Pittsburgh…places I never dreamed we’d win. We’re winning in Los Angeles, where mayor Eric Garcetti recently said:
“The old model of a car-centric, different-neighborhood-for-every-task city is in many ways slipping through our fingers whether we like it or not. We have to have neighborhoods that are more self-contained. People want to be able to walk or bike or take transit to a movie.”
LA…the most car-centric of all American cities. Imagine that.
We’re winning in smaller cities like Ogden, where Mayor Mike Caldwell leads by example, riding his bicycle to work at city hall every day for over a year and winning converts left and right.
We’re winning in urban areas. We’re winning in the suburbs. We’re winning in the hinterlands, where new ideas like Adventure Cycling’s Bicycle Route 66 and Missouri’s Katy-Rock Island trail connection are capturing the nation’s wanderlust and imagination much like the automobile and old Route 66 did almost 100 years ago.
We’re winning the battle of the rails, too. We can now roll our bikes onto Amtrak trains. Roll on service is a game changer. Imagine being able to cross the country, or at least a good part of it, on high speed rail and then being able to cycle to your destination at the other end. It beats car to airport to walking a mile to your gate to airplane to delay to shuttle bus to rental car or taxi to traffic jam by a country mile. Bicycles and the people who ride them could save Amtrak and make it profitable. How deliciously ironic is that?
So it’s just fine with me that they’re screaming. It means that things are breaking our way. There will be more battles, to be sure. It’s not a straight line to the promised land and this is far from over, but we’re on the right side of history and I am convinced that if we keep pedaling forward that both time and destiny will wear them down and we will win. The end result will be healthier people, more connected communities and a better America. Ultimately, that’s a win for them, too.