Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Roads are for...?

Thanks to a link today over at Biking in LA I was required to read about another misguided assertion that "roads are for cars", this one by a college student who I assume at some point will learn about research. Truth be known I was not required to read this, but shaking my head from side to side, while muttering under my breath does lighten my coworkers' day, and so for them I read. Now then, let me just come right out and say it, roads are not now, nor ever have been solely for cars. Roads are for transportation, for moving people and goods between one place and another. Here is something you can look up, back in the olden days (I mean really old) people and goods moved via trails. Trails, however, generally tend to be rather narrow and ill-suited to moving large quantities. Therefore, trails were widened, they became Traces, and Tracks, and roads. Keep in mind, this was still well before cars came on the scene, and began to clutter up the roads. At this time roads were travelled by people on horses, people driving wagons with teams of oxen, mules. Pedestrians used them as well. Over time, generations, hundreds, even thousands of years passed from the time the earliest roads were developed. Eventually bicycles were invented. People suddenly had a fast, easy and inexpensive means of personal mobility that did not require stabling, feeding, grooming, and the popularity of bicycling exploded. Still no cars; roads yes, bicycles yes, cars no. A little more time passed, and bicyclists became a bit weary of the rough dirt or cobble roads and began to campaign for nicely paved, smooth roadways in their cities, and even in the country. This nationwide movement became known as the Good Roads Movement (1880-1916) and resulted in some of the road improvements that we appreciate today. Throughout this period of time no one claimed possession of the roads in the name of a sole form of transportation. Roads were for everyone, and everyone knew it. Then came the automobile, with apologies to Marx and Engles, the true opiate of the masses. And with the auto came a sense of privilege and entitlement, even loathing of any other, different form of transport. This has, in turn, led to the misconception that roads are for cars, when in fact, their purpose has remained unchanged over time; roads are for general transportation, and are not the hegemony of a single mode of transportation over others.

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