Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our Vision of Two-Wheel Unity

Imagine being on one of  the many tree shaded parts of a  path that cycle tourists, bike commuters, those out for a family ride, and people of all ages, abilities and nationalities can come together on to  have their biking needs met. On the Greenway network we envision, hear laughter, the faint sound of gears clicking and birds chirping merrily away. And as you let your mind wander, feel the wind blowing on your face as you whisk away on a system of safely bikeable roads and paths that showcase the best of all those areas that give purpose to your wheels.

In the urban parts of this network, marvel at the quiet that soothes you as cities busy about not far beyond.  In the neighborhood parks you pass through  let the smell of fresh cut grass innervate your mind's eye you with all the ways people can use bikes to make a playground of this world. Once beyond the centers of population, allow  the   newly plowed earth in the farm fields that lie not far beyond, inspire  you with the sense of renewal that good biking infrastructure can bring to the quality of our lives.

And know that if you dare to adventure, the sunsets you can expect to see in the plains and in the deserts along your way will fill a sky so huge you will feel released from the world of limits. And as you are, your troubles will all fade into the nothingness from which they came. This as you celebrate the out of the box thinking that is helping  make the  biggest  of your cycling  dreams come true.

On our Greenway, besides being encouraged   to explore your imagination as you renew your connection with the planet, your brothers and with your body, your basic travel needs will also be met. Water and bathroom breaks will all be interspersed at intervals your legs can easily manage as will food, lodging, rest, supply and bike repair  areas. The regular incidence of mileage markers, info kiosks and interpretive signs describing the history or notable features of the various locales through which you pass, will give you the feedback you need to always know where you are at.

While all of the foregoing may sound too good to be true, for the last half century, we have regularly experienced the effects of the car's highest art form of utopia, the interstate freeway system. In numbers that are staggering, our  love affair with the automobile has divided neighborhoods, shattered lives,  slaughtered countless people and small animals, blighted cities, suffocated once fertile land and left in its wake a litany of environmental pejoratives so numerous they could fill books.

The cost to our mental well being has also been incalculable. As metal boxes plod along on America's freeways as a duty bound procession of lifelessness, the distance between all those encapsulated inside of them  continues to grow. Unwittingly, car drivers long have found themselves  pitted against against one another and the planet itself in what has been a daily exercise in survival, On this Nation's motor ways, as a result  of the way they were designed, the motorists on them can't help but implode the  sense of separation that they feel from the earth beneath their car seats and from their fellow man. It is this battlefield they  must leave behind when their cars deliver them to places where they shop, recreate, work or learn. Is it no small wonder that even well beyond the road, random acts of violence and other forms of indifference are so common place in America today?

In getting to this sad state of affairs, it was the motor industry's plan that backfired on them. In the '40's and '50's, their leaders  teamed with corporations and their lobbyists to get our country's resources, best human talent and billions of dollars committed to making their dream of a fast moving car utopia real. In the glorified name of "progress", 'if you build it, they will come' became the new mantra for the interstate freeways that much of the nation blindly rallied around.

And as we built what were supposed to be time saving  speedways  and all the infrastructure (expressways, boulevards, strip malls, transit hubs, parking lots, etc) that both support and connect to them  they gave birth to the sprawl (subdivisions and all of their underpinning) that makes the car necessary for all too many people. However, because many of us must travel further and further to and from the city core, our population centers are choking with the motor vehicle explosion the interstates that used to live at the outskirts have caused. And as freeways  grind more and more of  America to rush hour gridlock, we have sadly begun to accept the fact  that you cannot build your way out of all the congestion that has now resulted.

While few would disagree that it is the rampant use of the automobile that is now bringing about great damage to our well being as well as to that of the planet, few think the bicycle can reverse the downward spiral we are hurtling down. This is so because there is a core resistance in many parts of America preventing the bicycle from being seen as the serious problem solver that is needed here. Too many people still think of the driver's license as a right of passage into adulthood and the pedal machine as a toy that we must outgrow.

And yet this attitude is beginning to change. As the effects of climate change continue to doom our world with catastrophe, a green approach to living is becoming the accepted norm. More and more people are beginning to yearn for a way to keep up without the  automobile being at the center of their lives. While this is an every day reality in congested urban centers like New York City, where people thrive and flourish without their cars, this model needs to be replicated in cities, big and small, all across the country.

Once a critical mass of Americans then finally realize that the bicycle is the most practical as well as efficient user of human energy, then it's value as a tool that  can truly help rebuild America and the rest of the  world will be felt by our leaders. It will be this awareness that will declare war against all the atrocities we have committed against Mother Earth as it mobilizes our collective thinking for a completely different approach to life.

Just as General Motors bought out Congress with greenback dollars 70 years ago, here now in the 21st Century,  our elected officials will feel the strength of our will at the ballot box. They will help bring about the all new green economy a bike centric lifestyle will usher into form.

To keep our allegiance, our leaders will get in front of the ground swell of momentum that is forming  by overhauling the regulations governing  driver  education. By helping gain acceptance for cyclists on the road with with universal passage of the safe passing law, for example, where cars must give cyclists a minimum of three feet when overtaking them, the bicycle, which brought about America's first roads, will become their favored user and rightful king once again.

When our leaders lead, our educators our TV and radio personalities, even our publicists and public speakers, etc, all will feel called  to talk the kind of different talk that encourages the bicycle trip and not the car trip. And as they too  help to usher in the nirvana we foresee,  we, as a society, will evolve to both accept and support the changed lifestyle (clothing, fashion, dining and other activities, etc) that bicycle based traveling will bring about.

The ethers will be saturated with the call to reorient our priorities so that besides making our attitudes safe for pedal power, our schools, shopping areas, entertainment venues  and the workplace, etc, will all  favor the two wheel traveller. Instead of building parking lots and parking garages to attract automobiles,  these destinations will understand the logic of enticing the bicycle trip with everything from  bike racks to bike lockers, shower facilities, even discounted merchandise and services, and the like.

To help steer the direction of the two wheeled renaissance that is sure to result when our leaders get in step with the collective will, the NBG needs to be in front of the curve as this shift in consciousness begins to occur. We will be busy impregnating the National Mind with a  new kind of   'if you build it, they will come'. We want to empower the whole new breed of thinkers who will have removed the car from their own personal  transportation equations.

With a utopian  vision of our own, while the   network  we foresee free of motor vehicles becomes a reality in time, in the immediate, we will be busy calling for the retrofitting of roads so that they fit the needs of the cyclist. And we will be successful  wherever it is that we have helped to  make it possible for bikes and cars to safely co-exist with one another.

The massive growth of bicycling we are beginning to see in New York City, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco San Diego and Portland will continue to spread on the coasts. As  the changed lifestyle this brings about  sinks deeper and deeper into our collective character, it will spread even faster in big cities like Pittsburgh, Columbus, Chicago and Denver. Soon, its effects will also be visible  in more remote America.

Besides helping cyclists move about in the more populated city centers, as well as to and from them,  the NBG network  will also bring tourism back to a small town USA that the Interstates have abandoned in their quest for speed. One example is the Mother Highway, Route 66. The dying parts of it that have not given way to freeway, can be made a part of the NBG network and can create a whole new way of seeing this great land of ours. Already, cyclists are enjoying a small part of 66. Its  mile-long Chain of Rocks Bridge, that crosses the mighty Mississippi River  in Missouri, was recently opened on weekends to human power only.

As our  network becomes more accessible to more of America  and it becomes a transportation link in urban areas as well as a recreation paradise both outside and inside of population centers, as we saw with the intestates, its outer reaches will become less  and less inaccessible to human power. This as  all of the roads that access our Greenway are  made grand once again. As are all of the tiny towns along the way.

In the case of Route 66, for example, it doesn't have to be dedicated exclusively to bikes to stimulate bicycle tourism. All that will be required is that cyclists be made favored and welcome users. How? An eight foot wide bike lane can easily be added to both sides of its entire length.

The importance of generous breathing room for cycle travel at the edge of a road  can be seen on US 11 that runs from New Orleans to just outside of Washington DC. It is a favorite with knowledgeable bicyclists in the areas it serves because of the wide shoulder that runs much of its length. There are other such abandoned US highways all over America that all can be readily upgraded to become a part of the National Bicycle Greenway we foresee.

The roads we will have selected for our system will all be interconnected  to meet up with the great trail work that is being done all over America. Examples include  the C&O Canal path, that will ultimately connect Pittsburgh and parts north with DC. In the greater DC area, the many great trails and paths such as the Branch Trail network and Rock Creek Park that runs through much of the heart of the Capitol City, will all be tied into our system.

In the Midwest, bike roads and paths will connect to the Katy Trail in Missouri and with the great trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Natchez Trace Parkway , a beautiful motor way in the South, will be easily retrofitted to accommodate bikes and Florida's growing network of trails will also be made a part of our NBG network. While out in the West, the California Aqueduct that sends water from Northern California to the South and is already an approved bike route but is largely inaccessible because no bike roads feed it, will be plugged into our system as will the Santa Ana River trail that connects Los Angeles with the desert. In the Pacific Northwest, the beautiful Centennial Trail that connects Eastern Washington with Idaho will be made more accessible to the biking capital of Portland, OR.

The tremendous work that is being done by the Rails to Trails ConservancyAmerican Discovery TrailAdventure CyclingWABA; the East Coast Greenway and other such advocacy and trail building organizations will supercharge the vision we hold into a powerful form.

Inter-city and intra-city routes will be added to this system as we establish the main  overlay routes that connect all the states to our one main SF to DC route. In time, the National Bicycle Greenway will connect to all the sightseeing areas, city parks, schools, food, shopping and recreation locations within all of America's  big and small  downtowns When all of these trails and paths are linked to our system, public pressure will be brought to bear so that  more and more arterials are upgraded to meet NBG  specifications.

As the National Bicycle Greenway builds more and more worthy bike paths and cyclist-friendly roads into our network, in time, the beauty of America will be on hand for all who use their own bodies to see. This as the NBG changes both the physical and mental landscape of  America.

In getting to such a Promised Land,  we will feel called to let go of the  old tired engines that used to drive our economy  We will tax ourselves differently. Instead of using such funds  to build freeways, those monies will be used to build greenway arterials that serve the purpose of bike transportation.

In my book,  HBGR, I talk in detail about all the new sources of income that  will come about in a greenway and not a freeway economy.  These include:

Job Creation in:
- the huge new demand for bikes and their accessories
- bike maintenance and all the new trade schools that legitimize the bike mechanic career path
- construction of new lodging accommodation that  meets the needs of the bike traveler
- Greenway building industries  (construction of bridge crossings,  pathways and lighting, signage, kiosk and message boards, restroom, drinking fountains and food and drink concessions at car staging areas and all along bike way, etc)
- kiosk and message board advertising sales
- food and drink concessions (including super food & kombucha bars, etc.)
- Greenway hub centers, warehouse sized, where under one roof, bike community can come for classes and workshops, bike repair and recycled bike and parts sales, lectures, a reading room and juice bar, video screenings, social activities and camaraderie, etc.
- Greenway gift and novelty  stores
- new  cottage industries for makers of bike apparel and bike trailers, etc.
- shower stop and restroom upkeep
- bike parking & security
- bike taxis
- bike rentals
- Greenway Sherpa services
- bike mapping hardware and software

While the jobs created above can't be exported, and there is also much sales tax to be gained, our Greenway will  also make for a healthier USA as it speaks to the overweight epidemic that is gripping America today. And as exercise requires healthier foods, we will also spend  much, much less of our time and national resources on health care as we become a great nation, not dependent on other countries for their oil, once again.

We often hear the refrain, "Things are moving so fast, we need to slow down." A commitment to build the NBG network is a move towards restoring sanity, peace, and the needed well-being that is our birthright. There is a place inside each of us that knows the National Bicycle Greenway can make for a true heaven of this earth.

Having, since 1993 (here is some of the NBG media I have created),  pushed for a  network of bike roads and paths as far as I can while relying on volunteers  with limited staff through the nonprofit I have formed, in 2005, I began working on a business plan. Grounded in all the feedback and other data we have collected over the last two decades, in making  the National Bicycle Greenway real, I  feel we now know. what resources will be needed to do so. The over view for  how we would like to proceed as well as the finer detail of the actual mechanics can be found in my new book, "How America Can Bike & Grow Rich".

As the bold vision that it is, my book presumes a lot  In doing so, it takes inspiration from  the words I used to transcend two months in a coma, right side paralysis and clinical death to then do two bike rides across America, write books about these experiences and the NBG and win awards as a fitness leader. They come from the widely accomplished  German writer, philosopher, diplomat, biologist, and physicist, Johann Wolgang von Goethe, who in the 19th century said:
Whatever you you can do
or dream you can,
begin it.
Boldness has genius, power
and magic in it.

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