Today I filled in the City of Kansas City, Missouri, bike survey. It smelled like another hired-consultant in the bushes. I suppose they want the “pulse of the city” on bikes and riding bikes.
The survey writers limited the questions and responses in such a way to say, really, nothing at all. “Do you ride a bike?” “Do you like riding bikes?” “Will you ride your bike?”
Well, yes and what of it?
So, in loudmouth fashion, I included the following statements in my survey. If I’m going to fill in a survey, I’m using it as a creative and expressive moment.
In answer to a question about what determines my route for a trip, I wrote:
“Lack of a transit system than the does more than bounce people around on buses. A missing aspect of this survey is the chance to choose, comment on, or even dream of multi-modal connections to all points of the metro.”
For a question of what Kansas City’s priorities should be, I wrote:
“Transit and transportation systems that work for people, not just business, not just some flat-headed suburbanite, not just a tiny group of really rich people who dangle our elected officials like puppets. Until we decide we should have a multi-modal (park-and-rive, bike, bus, rail, light rail, etc.) transit system, we’ll just sort of trundle along like a bunch of Midwestern Babbits saying, ‘We’ll get around to joining the modern era when we can afford it…in the meantime, we’ll just keep doing what makes us crappy.’
“God, this constant stream of repeating ourselves really makes me angry.”
Three words describing my biking experience: “Wonderful. Dangerous sprawl.”
Biggest concerns about biking in Kansas City:
“We don’t really care about bikes. I mean, getting people out of their cars and onto their asses.
“This survey seems another in a long line of, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if…’ efforts to avoid the problem. Sprawl. Lack of transit. City catering to a baby-like business community that can’t wait to feed at the public trough–and then! and then has the gall to tell the city where and how it wants its feed.”
What would get you cycling more, the survey asked. So I told it in a kind of short essay:
“More buses to more destinations more often. More trains (but one would be more than we have now). Fewer cars. More bike-only lanes, paved trails, sidewalks and curbs from the 21st century, etc.
“Yes. It costs money. But like I said above, we don’t really want everyone riding bikes to work, weekend visits with family, to go camping outside the city now do we? If we did then we’d have a question like “What would change your commuting habits away from the car?” in this survey.
“But the survey offers meaningless and mostly costless options. Cheap. Easy. I like bike lanes. I like trails. But I would take my bike to my work in Overland Park if I could depend on the bus, which I cannot. I would take my bike anywhere in the metro if I could depend on the bus, which I cannot. The bus doesn’t go everywhere. I’d sell my car and never use another if I had reliable bus service that hooked into a rail somewhere.
“This survey indicates, however, that you don’t really want change, you want more of the same. So and so many people responded to my survey, I get a prize. The only thing you can really understand from this survey is that people either want or don’t want to ride bikes.
“Pardon my skepticism. But we’re really gonna get more cops on the beat to patrol bike lanes? The city’s going to spend the money that an effective bike-facilities PR campaign will take? What are bike facilities anyway? I’ve been riding bike seriously for thirty-five years and I have yet to see a bike facility that didn’t look like a bike rack or a pay-and-ride bike vending machine.
“So, we put a ‘sharrow’ here. (Public-administration grads made up the word ‘sharrow’ in place having a new idea. Come on, share with an SUV? Semi? A person texting?) We put a bike lane there. But we don’t really penetrate the real issue–changing this city, making it fit for the coming years.
“Until we have that vision and go with it–despite what the Ed ‘George Babbit’ Eilerts, the selfish, I-got-mine Stretches, the Kempers, or the DSTs of the city say–Kansas City really will be like the ripples in a pond. The city disappears first where the foundation stone hit the water. They burbs deteriorate as they move out, disappearing altogether.
*First step: More buses with racks.
*Second step: More stops between stops, east-west connections, and more regular service.
*Third step: rail (Who cares what we call it–streetcar, light, heavy, commuter, just quit jacking around.)
*Fourth step: Stop planning the city around cars.
“In other words, instead of doing what everyone else does or says you should do, find your own direction, believe in yourself, and go without regard to what other people say. Stand or fail on that.
“That’s what all those free-enterprise types at the public trough tell us, anyway.”