Bikescape has a podcast with James Howard Kunstler this week. For those not in the know, Mr. Kunstler is probably the most active and acerbic professional commentator on the trouble we’ve made for ourselves with car culture. He doesn’t tie it all in so relentlessly to cars as some of us do, but I think that’s more a matter of rhetorical tact than of substantive disagreement. Speaking the truth too plainly is a fast way to the outer margins of most discussions involving mass behaviors.
And a podcast, well, that’s the new name of an old way to publish without a lot of typing. I’m listening right now, sort of wishing I could skim a transcript instead. I say skim only because Mr. Kunstler quotes himself quite a lot, and, well, I’ve read all of this. I think I’m supposed to be walking around or biking or driving while listening to it.
Mr. Babilonia, in comments elsewhere, cited this bit about why cars are the root of our mess. I’m a sucker for prophetic statements:
Every man on horseback is an arrogant man, however gentle he may be on foot. The man in the automobile is one thousand times as dangerous. I tell you, it will engender absolute selfishness in mankind if the driving of automobiles becomes common. It will breed violence on a scale never seen before. It will mark the end of the family as we know it, the three or four generations living happily in one home. It will destroy the sense of neighborhood and the true sense of Nation. It will create giantized cankers of cities, false opulence of suburbs, ruinized countryside, and unhealthy conglomerations of specialized farming and manufacturing. It will make every man a tyrant. — R.A. Lafferty
While you’re at Bikescape, don’t miss Kash’s interview. Kash was one of my inspirations to forego my former line of work to become a more present father, and to try to contribute substantively somehow to bike culture, other than as a person who buys and rides cool useful stuff. Less than three years ago, Kash and I discussed his idea to mount an electric motor near the cranks of a bicycle, with a worm gear to drive them. Kash wanted to be able to haul his girls thirty miles over the coastal range to the beach on his trike, and there wasn’t anything on the market to make that possible that wasn’t heavier than the load. He also loaned me an electric assist bike of his — the first I had ridden. I then bought the best-reviewed electric bike, hooked up an Xtracycle, and rode it to destruction. Then I set out to do better.
My son is yanking on my leg to get off the “peeber.”