Guest View: Will we crash or sail into the future?
May 22, 2008
I wish to commend the Tribune on its extensive coverage last month of Bike to Work Week. It’s indeed heartening to see so many of my fellow cyclists take up the challenge of eschewing their cars and making the effort. For many of us, riding to work, recreate and shop lasts well through the nonwinter months. For us, bicycling is more than just sport, it’s transport.
There is, however, a side of this story that has not been told. A side that is more heart-wrenching than heartening. I’m referring to several bicycle /motor vehicle accidents that reportedly occurred during that week – a week when summer traffic had not even begun. The accident that I have direct knowledge of – it occurred at the “Y,” and I was at the scene just moments afterward – was not reported in the press and was not caused by rider inexperience, inattention or disregard for traffic laws.
It was caused when a motorist inadvertently violated the right-of-way of a highly experienced and responsible cyclist riding legally. The injuries sustained by the cyclist were serious.
What’s the point of bringing this up? It serves as a painful reminder that despite the fact that safer and more efficient bicycling facilities have been on the city of South Lake Tahoe’s radar screen since before 1977, our local politicos and others have been more concerned with creating white elephant parking garages and useless, ugly holes in the ground than with ensuring that our recreation-based communities’ transportation system infrastructure is complete and at least adequate. That infrastructure necessarily includes: properly maintained roadways, sidewalks, bike paths and bike lanes. To wit, even the “improvements” slated for the “Y” intersection do not include plans for designated bicycle lanes. Why not? What better opportunity do they need to finally put some improvements for bicycling safety on the ground?
These days of spiraling fuel costs, big business bankruptcies, Indian casinos and general economic mayhem didn’t arrive without warning. Many of us advocated preparing for this a long time ago by focusing on our primary draw: our stunning environment. Had we as a community focused on making Tahoe a model of environmental and economic sustainability, we’d be much better positioned to weather the effects of the economic perfect storm that is lashing at the very foundations of our society.
Have the powers that be completely lost sight of the basics? Marketing 101 taught us to KISS (keep it simple, stupid). Locally, that’s been refined to read, “It’s the lake, stupid.” This is an outdoor recreation Mecca, and there are tens of thousands of bicycling enthusiasts living within a four-hour drive. They would gladly drive here and park their cars if they could access beaches, parks, shops, restaurants, etc. safely by bicycle, foot and trolley. People will support a green community with their visitation and their dollars. Marketing 101 now says: Green is the new black. It’s past time we learned that lesson and changed course. We need to trim our sails to use this perfect economic storm to steer us toward a sustainable future – not follow the same old tired course of the past.
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– Tom Wendell is a South Lake Tahoe resident and longtime advocate for bicycling and model community.
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