When you mention the Pacific Northwest to people, they immediately think it is California’s hippie cousin. The strip of land from Canada to California that’s bounded by the Cascades is certainly different. Western Oregon and Washington are longstanding bastions of liberal thinking. This is where we live. You would think a live-and-let-live attitude prevails. Hippies and other flavors of liberals are supposed to believe in personal freedom. I always thought that was true. It isn’t.
There is a vocal minority of bicyclists in Seattle. They largely belong to the white, college-educated demographic. They vote Democratic but don’t act like the liberals they profess to be. These underweight, beak-nosed guys believe that they deserve private roads that they can use to pedal their way to work and recreation. On the surface, that seems like a reasonable ask.
These well-to-do people lobbied the Seattle city council to join the growing movement to paint bike lanes on city streets. These are solid, white lines that are supposed to be kept clear for bike riders. They have a small effect on traffic since they only remove about six feet of road width. They are expensive to paint and maintain, but what-the-hell the bike riders contribute to campaigns.
If things stopped there, Seattle would be another progressive city offering zero-carbon-emission transportation alternatives. But it didn’t. You should know that Seattle, like San Francisco, and Rome is built on a series of hills. These are very steep hills that are seriously unfriendly to bikes. The climate isn’t very nice for people walking or riding bikes. Seattle is windy and rainy nine months a year. Between the hills and the weather, only the beak-noses are willing to ride every day.
Since living in Seattle is expensive, the voting public is heavily weighted toward the bike crowd. For years these people worked tirelessly to make Seattle a bicycle town. There is no subway (one is under construction now for a very limited area), and bus service is, well, bus service, means that driving to work in Seattle is a fact of life for many. The bike nazis argued that if the roads were less accessible to cars, more people would exchange them for bikes. Commute times would go up, and somehow that would flatten the hills and improve the climate.
These two-wheel fascists sponsored initiative after initiative and donated to candidates who supported the tyranny of the two-wheeler. The result was the most incredibly stupid destruction of urban planning. Second Avenue, up until recently, the major route north and south in the city, was converted from five lanes (one way southbound) into two lanes. One full lane is reserved for bikes. This lane is largely empty. Only a couple of thousand cycles a day use it. Another lane is reserved just for busses. OK, that makes sense. That leaves just two lanes to serve cars and trucks.
What the hell, the bike riders can cruise in peace. Meanwhile, pollution is up because the motor traffic is forced to a crawl due to being squeezed into just two lanes. My drive on Second Avenue went from ten minutes to thirty. That’s three times as much CO2 from each car. But hey, the nazis got their way and can cruise without dealing with cars. The destruction didn’t stop there. The Schwinn Reich closed entire east-west streets to motor traffic. They also made sure it wasn’t necessary to license bicycles.
Fascism isn’t limited to the Right. It’s a disease that infects people of all political persuasion. Seattle is a perfect example of what happens when a minority can gain control over the majority. There’s a lesson in this for all of us.