What do Roger Rabbit, George Bush Sr and Cuba have in common?

They are all in this blog post and they all make a case for driving less or biking more.          Rogerpoint

Did you know that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is really about The Great American Streetcar Scandal?

In the late 1940’s a fake company was formed by major corporations from the oil and big auto industry. This fake company went into 60 different cities throughout the U.S., bought the trolley systems, ripped out the tracks and junked the cars so that we would be more dependent on their products, cars and gas. No need to go into detail here, check out the 1996 documentary Taken for a Ride on youtube. Have a sustainable movie night and watch Taken for a Ride first then Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and you’ll really see the back story.

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The trolley system was the predecessor to light rails. Just think what it would be like now if those 60 cities had been able to develop their light rail systems for the last 60 years. Our country’s infrastructure would be completely different and more sustainable had it not been built on greed. The highway act followed in the fifties, which allowed Americans to drive across the country with ease, but it also separated and polluted low income neighborhoods in big cities across the country, among other things.

Not to be too negative, it is just important that we know this so that we can think differently about our personal transportation. It is also important to recognize what the auto industry and big oil has done to trick us and how they’ve shaped our landscape.

So, that being said, now I have some positive points to make. And they are from George Bush Sr. and Cuba, really.

Bushes on bikes 2In the 1970’s George Bush Sr. was the U.S. Ambassador to China. In a letter to the Bicycle Network he wrote: “The more I think about our US transportation problems from this vantage point of  halfway around the world, the more I see an increased role for the bicycle in American life. Obviously, some terrains make it more difficult, obviously some climates make it more difficult; but I am convinced after riding bikes an enormous amount here in China, that it is a sensible, economical, clean form of transportation and makes enormous good sense.”

George Bush Sr. understood that bicycles work as vehicles for everyone. We don’t always need 3,000 lb. vehicles fueled by gas that comes from either dirty (shale and tar sands) domestic oil or dirty (causes wars and costs US taxpayers $8 trillion to protect the Strait of Hormuz for the safe passage of oil) foreign oil, when we already have bikes. 

We had bicycles before we had cars. The first paved roads were built for bikes. There is a recently published book about this, http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/.

LAW, The League of American Wheelmen, was an early bicycle organization that had a major impact on modern roads because they required better roads than horse-drawn carriages. In 1894, Harper’s Weekly reported that 90 percent of the nation’s highway advocates and builders belonged to LAW. Then the automobile came along and took over the roads.

Now we’re getting them back. Look at how cities like Memphis, who was named one of the nation’s three worst bicycling cities in 2008, are investing millions of dollars in real, effective bicycle infrastructure. They even took two lanes from cars on a mile and a half section of Riverside Drive and gave it to bikes and pedestrians. See article, http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/10/how-memphis-became-a-great-bicycle-city/382061/ , or this one, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/us/memphis-aims-to-be-a-friendlier-place-for-cyclists.html?_r=0.

With everything happening in Cuba right now, we’re reminded how it makes a great case study for bicycles.

Cuba bikesBecause of the US embargo, then the break-up of the Soviet Union, their source for cheap oil, Cuba had a transportation crisis by 1990. Between 1991 and 1995, The Special Period, the Cuban government imported over 1.5 million bicycles from China. Not only did this alleviate their unique transportation problem, but it also helped with fitness of the general population, lowering the rates of diabetes and heart disease, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/09/hard-times-heart-disease-diabetes-cuba.

Bikes work as vehicles. In some places public transit works as well. We should support both for so many reasons.

I also think we should try harder not to support big oil and the auto industry. They both spend more on advertising and lobbying than any other industries. And they both have been tricking us then profiting from it for years.

Thanks for reading,

Rob

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robsbike2013

Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources - Colorado State. Promoted alternative transportation, especially bicycles, for four years at City of Fort Collins SmartTrips Program. Rob's Bike Courier Service for nine years. Completed solo, self-contained, cross-country bike tour, riding over 6,000 miles in almost four months. Created the Car-Free Recreation Guide to Northern Colorado, published in 2008. Owner and operator of Get Reel! Push Mowers, a push-reel mower sharpening service. Gardener. Composter. Car-free almost 10 years.

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