This passage is from a recent op-ed by David Brooks:
The high point of his campaign, so far, has been his energy policy, which is comprehensive and bold, but does not try to turn us into a nation of bicyclists. It does not view America’s energy-intense economy as a sign of sinfulness.
While I seriously doubt that any mainstream candidate intends to turn us into a “nation of bicyclists,” I have to ask… what’s wrong with that?
The leading causes of death in this country are, for the most part, caused by poor diets and lack of exercise, so bicycling would fix half of that problem. The leading cause of death for young people is automobiles, bicyclists wouldn’t pose the same threat to our kids. Recent studies have shown that particulates emitted by vehicles contribute to heart disease and strokes, bicycles don’t emit such particles. I fail to see any negatives there.
When I envision the city streets around me filled with bicycles instead of cars, I see nearly empty streets with happy people socializing with one another instead of being isolated inside several tons of steel. I see people living closer to their workplaces, grocery stores and schools. I see people talking to one another, building communities, rather than focusing their frustration and isolation on others in the form of road rage.
I will grant you that a bicyclist may arrive a bit sweaty, but installing shower rooms at workplaces is not beyond our technological know-how. I think humans have a fair grasp of indoor plumbing.
The only downside is that we have structured our lives around automobiles and virtually free energy, and that bicycling may be difficult for some of them. But this structure is doomed, and a forward thinking energy policy will face these hard facts and help these people and their communities rebuild.
But if I’m wrong about this and, after doing the work rebuild our landscapes to human scales, we discover endless supplies of cheap oil, the world will be a better, happier and healthier place. What if you’re wrong, Mr. Brooks?