autoAmerican anarchy

The cyclists are revolting against autoAmerican anarchy. Up the revolution!

In New York City hundreds of cyclists laid down for a “die-in” at Washington Square Park after three cyclists were killed in just one week (15 Big Apple cyclists dead so far this year). “People are literally dying on the streets because they’re not being adequately protected,” Joseph Cutrufo, of Transportation Alternatives, said. Biking “shouldn’t be seen as a dangerous behavior.”

In Boston cyclists formed a human chain to protest the city’s decision to install painted bike lanes on dangerous streets. According to the Boston Globe “The 8 a.m. demonstration consisted of more than 100 people standing in the roads near the intersection of Fenway and Brookline Avenue during the busy morning commute to ‘highlight the dangerous conditions cyclists face every day when given no protection beyond paint.'” Paint isn’t enough, protestors say, they want bike lanes that are physically separated from cars. 

These protests follow a well-attended “Rally For Streets That Don’t Kill People” in Washington, D.C. “Cyclists laid down in the street, and activists read aloud the names of 128 people who have been killed on D.C. roads since” 2016 reports USA Streetsblog. 

Meanwhile, an NYC cop intentionally ran his patrol car into a cyclists who had apparently ignored an order to pull over. The cop later told the cyclists in front of witnesses “you’re riding recklessly, and you’re refusing to stop after multiple lawful orders that you acknowledged. So I am going to use whatever means necessary to stop you, OK? And that’s for your safety.” On the plus side, at least he didn’t shoot the guy. 

In Florida’s Indian Rocks Beach 17-year old Sophia Delott was riding her bike home from school when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Delott was well known in the community as the only girl on the Seminole High football team. The team posted on its Facebook page: “Last night, one of our own was taken from us by a drunk driver. Sophie was a Warhawk through and through…Most of all, she was our family.”

The City of Orangetown, NY, has passed an ordinance requiring cyclists to ride in single file or suffer penalties of up to $300 in fines and 30 days in jail – this despite a state law that stipulates otherwise. “Apparently, upstate motorists were upset that cycling tourists wouldn’t move out of the way of cars,” reports Streetsblog USA. Oh the humanity.

Want to know why the simple act of walking on public streets is hazardous for your health? Consider these survey results from Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance. Despite a “must stop” law requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, fewer than 1 out of 5 Chicago drivers do so. “Compliance is really, really low,” says Active Transportation Alliance spokesman Kyle Whitehead in a classic understatement. 

Speaking of pedestrians at risk, Strong Towns poses the $64,000 question with this recent headline “Why are U.S. drivers killing so many pedestrians?” U.S. pedestrian deaths have increased 51 percent over the last 9 years. Meanwhile the pedestrian death rate in Europe is steadily dropping. “It’s worth noting that this trend is occurring even though walking is far more common in Europe, streets are generally narrower, and in older cities, there aren’t sidewalks, but pedestrians share the roadway with cars.” Hey, if you don’t love autoAmerica, Pal, go back where you came from. 

On the plus side, police in five southeast states are cracking down on speeders – for exactly one week. “The speed limit is the speed limit,” Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Derrick Rahming said in announcing Operation Southern Shield. “We are going to be focusing on drivers who are failing to observe posted speed limits…to make sure the roads are safer during this season.” It’s rather like declaring a hunting season when you can bag your limit. The rest of the year we call ’em “speed traps.”

Days of wine and poses

We spent five weeks this summer on Otty Lake, in Lanark County Ontario. And I probably took a hundred sunset photos. I could not help myself.

After the sun sinks behind the tree line on the opposite shore magical things begin to happen.

Explosions of pink, orange, blue, purple and gold light up the sky, reflect off the clouds and ripple across the water.Endless variations of hues, shades and shapes.

A work of art, really.

Electric, neon, arresting.

Jill spent a lot of time on the lake with Roman on her paddle board.

Roman is not a great admirer of sunsets.

Mostly he just wanted to bite the water.

But I kept a close eye on them from the dock.

Never letting them out of my sight.

Allowing nothing whatsoever to distract me.

Or alter my keen sense of perception.

As I contemplated life the universe and everything.

Hey, where’d they go?

They were here just a second ago.

I must have gotten distracted.

By Trump, Turkmenistan and The Times.

Maybe I should launch a search and rescue operation. Hey, anybody got a paddle?

Oh, never mind, there they are.

Not that I was worried. I had two rescue canoes.

Except you need two hands to work a paddle.

When life throws one curve balls one must, um, rise to the occasion.

Two paths diverge

Donald Trump will not be the next President of our United States of America.

Yes, I know. I have heard all the pundits opine otherwise.

About how the Democrats are already blowing it with their reckless talk of impeachment and Medicare for all and open borders and gun control and yada, yada, yada (insert your own favorite leftist talking point here).

Because Democrats will trend too far left to win.

Because they’ll surely stray from the dead center middle of the road.

Because Trump will make certain that The Squad is the new face of the Democratic Party no matter who gets the nomination.

Because if Warren or Sanders or Harris or whoever gets the nomination instead of Biden or Gillibrand or (insert your own favorite white center of the roader) they will hand the election to Trump.

Because the American voter is as skittish as a cat on a hot tin roof when it comes to taking a chance on a socialistic America-hating radical.

I mean, people: Didn’t we learn anything from George McGovern? (You remember, the WWII war hero who lost to a crook).

But I say screw all that.

Listen, I’m a pundit too. I’m a dues paying nattering nabob of negativism. I was punditing when Ronnie Reagan invaded Grenada on a whim and the Army nearly ran out of suntan lotion.

I’m one of those storied sultans of swat who are reputed to ride down out of the hills after the battle is over to shoot the wounded.

Yeah, that guy.

And for what it’s worth, here is my prediction for the 2020 presidential election.

Donald Trump will not be the next president of our United States of America.

Won’t happen.

Because one of two things will happen.

Thing One:

I believe the American people, for all of their faults, are at heart too decent, ethical and moral to reelect a pathological liar, sexual predator, bigot, con man, sadist, Russian collaborator and all around pathetic excuse for a human being.

It’s like Abe said. Fool me once, hey it happens. Fool me twice, my bad.

But I may be wrong. In which case:

Thing Two:

The American people may in fact have descend so deeply into self-indulgence, self-gratification self-abasement, self-denial and general all around selfishness that just enough of them (under our bizarre electoral college math) will indeed pull the lever for The Donald.

But even so, Donald Trump will not be the next president of our United States of America.

Because if the electorate has become so debased, so decadent or so disinterested in their civic duty as to reelect arguably the worst excuse for a carbon-based life-form in the known universe, then – simply – this will no longer be our United States of America.

No, we will have instead become the Authoritarian Vassal States of Trumpistan.

And another notch in Putin’s gun.

And if that comes to pass the only thing to be said for certain is that we will have the president we so richly deserve.

I take no great solace in making this observation. But history is ever on the march.

Great nations are born. They grow and, hopefully, prosper. They make their contributions to the entirety of human civilization.

And then they tend to weaken, go astray and eventually die.

It happened to ancient Greece. It happened to Rome. To the Brits, the Ottomans, the (insert your favorite fallen empire here). And it must inevitably happen to our United States of America.

Call it the Immutable Law of National Entropy. The center cannot hold. Things fall apart. And then something else takes its place.

There is no glorious thousand year reich lurking behind Trump’s MAGA promises. He has already squandered our credibility and dependability so far as the rest of the world is concerned, so our passing will not be overly mourned.

Frankly, I hadn’t expected national entropy to occur in my lifetime. And I still hold out the hope that the American people – having teetered this close to the very edge of the abyss and peered over into its darkness – will choose to step back before it’s too late.

OMG, what have we done!

I have to believe that. Because I am born and raised American. I have been to war in the defense of my country. I have dutifully paid my taxes. I have voted at every opportunity. I believe deeply in the civic compact that has united us for more than two centuries.

We citizens of our United States of America are better than Donald Trump. Whether we still, collectively, believe in and are willing to fight for our American ideals remains to be seen.

In November 2020 two paths will diverge in the course of American affairs.

One path can lead to an American renewal.

We can choose to stand up in the face of the relentless march of history and say, with one voice: Not now. Not yet. Not on our watch.

The other path will surely lead to the death of the American dream.

But only if enough of us choose to stand by idly as the parade marches past.

Courage Americans.

Keep the faith and do the right thing.

If you – if we – do that then our United States of America will not perish from the face of this earth.

Come the revolution

“Scooter horror is coming to Gainesville!”

I saw that comment on Facebook. Oh, the humanity!

Soon there will be e-scooters strewn across the sidewalks all up and down Main Street. Anti-scooter vigilantes will be tossing them into Depot Park’s ponds.

And the carnage!

The Associated Press reports at least 11 e-scooter deaths since the beginning of 2018.

“Andrew Hardy was crossing the street on an electric scooter in downtown Los Angeles when a car struck him at 50 miles per hour and flung him 15 feet in the air before he smacked his head on the pavement and fell unconscious,” AP reports.

Having miraculously escaped death, Hardy concluded “These scooters should not be available to the public. Those things are like a death wish.”

Wait a minute. Shouldn’t the takeaway here be the absolute insanity of any motorist in any downtown in any city being able to drive 50 mph?

Still, nearly a dozen e-scooter fatalities in a year and a half sounds serious.

Until you consider that, In 2017, more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle collisions. Including 6,000 pedestrians and cyclists.

Oh, and bike-ped deaths are on the increase even as traffic deaths in general have been declining. People inside cars are safer than ever, while those on the outside grow more endangered with each passing year.

We’ve seen this movie before. Pedestrians are just distracted jaywalkers, no wonder they’re getting killed in record numbers. Cyclists are reckless rule breakers, so pity the poor motorist who accidentally runs one down. And now lawless scooterers (scooterists?).

Here’s what its come to: We routinely give 90 percent of the public transportation realm (roads, streets, highways) to mostly single-occupant motor vehicle use. And everybody else – walkers, cycles, people in wheelchairs and now on scooters – must cram themselves into the narrow slivers (sidewalks, shoulders) along the edges.

And that’s even presuming there are slivers available to cram into. Often there are not.

No question there are legitimate issues to be resolved regarding e-scooter and e-bike use. Who should be allowed to share sidewalk space or bike lanes and who should get precedence therein? And how do you control e-clutter in ride-share situations when the things can be picked up and dropped off anywhere a respective user cares to begin and end?

All of that conceded, the bottom line, whether one’s personal mobility device of choice be scooter, bicycle, skates, pogo stick or just good old fashion shoe leather, is the same.

We have deliberately designed our public streets for the convenience of people who encase themselves inside fast and powerful motor vehicles. Gainesville’s signature street, University Avenue, is a prime example.

We design everything from lane width to speed limits to intersections to pedestrian crossings to curb cuts to turning radius with the primary intent of enabling traffic to flow as quickly and as efficiently as possible through the urban landscape. Because being forced to stew in traffic is the closest thing to a cardinal sin in autoAmerica.

So now e-scooters are coming to Gainesville. Sound the alarm and hide the children.

But if this innovation city is serious enough to hire a Director of Mobility (yes, I’m looking at you, Malisa McCreedy) we need to give a lot more than lip service to the notion of “complete streets.”

The personal mobility revolution is coming. Is Gainesville ready for it?

(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Follow his blog at floridavelocepe.com)

It’s all about Him

Have you seen this man?

He makes me crazy.

He makes all of us crazy. Some crazy enough the bay at the moon. Some to bay at the Fake News Media. Me, he makes me crazy enough to collage. I cannot help myself. Like eating peanuts at one of his circuses. It is a compulsion.

At first it seemed like a harmless vice. A shot here, a shot there. I could stop whenever I wanted.

I imagined him going head to head with the worst of my life’s presidents. Nixon and LBJ basked in the heat of napalm. But he…he lights a fire in the worst of us that burns hotter and more intensely than anything LBJ or Nixon laid down in ‘Nam.

He is there to protect us.

And incite us.

He is our first Fake News President. And he’s ok with that.

So long as the news is all about him.

And all eyes are on him.

And on him

He understands that we are Fossil Fuel Man. And that all of those New Age hippies who want to run their cars on vegetable oil and power their homes with wind hate America.

He abhors socialism. Except for the right kind of socialism.

Oh, there are the naysayers. The detractors. The but-what-about-ers. But with cheap gas who cares?

Because he brings the circus. He is the circus. He is every one of the thousand clowns. The ringmaster. P.T. Barnum was an amateur by comparison. “Come see the elephant,” he whispers. And we must. We must.

He could sell ice water in Hell. He serves up his revenge cold. “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia,” he shouts. And we all look around for this Al guy.

And we think, don’t we have enough drama in our lives? Clearly, we do not.

He will give us Iran gift wrapped. He will deliver North Korea with a big red bow. He has it on good authority that Putin is a good guy. Venezuela is toast. China will surrender. Tariffs go well with a nice claret.

Oh, and about that special relationship? Right after Boris and just before Brexit is the sweet spot.

He is for America. So long as he is America.

Did I mention he loves war, the flag and patriotism? And fast food and apple pie.

Rain on his parade? Never happen. He is the parade.

He tells us ten impossible things before breakfast. Never mind those other story tellers. Fake narrative.

Some of his stories are dark, ugly and outlandish. Because he “tells it like it is.” Or at least like some of us secretly wish it to be.

He says “follow me.” And some of us do.

Talk about a special relationship. What can possibly go wrong?

We are mad at him. We are mad for him. We are mad about him. We are mad.

What, us worry?

Live free and die hard

The world will little note nor long lament the death of 33-year-old Drew Grant in a two car collision on a lonely highway in Arkansas Saturday night. Traffic fatalities are all too common in autoAmerica and typically merit little media attention.

Anyway, most of us were too focused – at least for the moment – on the latest mass shooting: Three dead, including a six-year-old boy, and 15 wounded at a Northern California garlic festival.

Indeed the only reason Grant’s passing (by the way, the driver of the other vehicle died too, and three passengers, including a child, were injured) is that before he had his name legally changed, Grant, aka Andrew Golden, had gained national infamy as the “baby faced” killer.

Along with 13-year old Mitchell Johnson, Golden, then 11, shot and killed four fellow students and a teacher in Westside Middle School, in Jonesboro, Ark, on March 24, 1998. At the time it was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, though not for long. Tried as a juvenile, Golden spent 9 years in juvenile detention before being released.

Some might consider Grant’s death by automobile poetic justice. It is certainly one of the most ironic exits imaginable. Young Andrew Golden lived by the gun in a country where some 33,000 people a year are shot. Drew Grant died at the wheel in a nation that shrugs off in excess of 40,000 traffic fatalities annually.

“Since January 2000, more Americans have died in car crashes than did in both World Wars, and the overwhelming majority of the wrecks were caused by speeding, drunk or distracted drivers, according to government data,” reports the Washington Post. “Where’s the social outrage? There should be social outrage,” said Robert L. Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told WaPo.

Every day, 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. The effects of gun violence extend far beyond these casualties—gun violence shapes the lives of millions of Americans who witness it, know someone who was shot, or live in fear of the next shooting.” This from the advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety.

Indeed, death by gunfire and death by automobile are uniquely American ways to go. Statistically no other nation on earth can touch our fatality rates in either category.

Make no mistake, we Americans have it well within in our power to stop the slaughter on both counts. We could ban military-style assault weapons and “cop killer” ammunition. We could do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. We could impose sensible waiting periods and background checks. We could ban private “off the books” gun sales and more.

But we choose not to. Our politicians have long ago decided that a staggering body count is an acceptable trade off for our sacred right to pack heat. And they know that voters are far more likely to punish them than praise them for their pro-gun sentiments.

Likewise we have the technology to stop speeding and reckless driving. There is a reason why lawmakers are prone to ban cameras that ticket red light runners and speeders. Because they know that Americans get angry over mechanized “speed traps” and insist that they be ticketed only when cops actually see them misbehaving and chase them down for it.

Which is more sacred in America: The right to arm ourselves against government tyranny? Or the right to drive as fast and as much as we please?

And so 40,000 traffic deaths here, 30,000 gun deaths there. Call them acceptable losses necessary to preserve our freedom to drive and shoot. It is what the Founding Father’s fought and died for

What can be more central to the American identity than guns and cars? “Live free and die hard” might as well be our national motto.

Running from climate change

OTTY LAKE: ONTARIO: Now I am a climate refugee.

On this magical Sunday morning I sit on the porch of our rented cabin about 50 miles south of Ottawa. It is 71 degrees and a fresh breeze ripples the surface of this lovely clear blue lake.

And there’s a cold front coming, promising temperatures in the low 60s and little humidity.

Opening my e-edition of The Sun two headlines catch my attention.

Above the fold: “Celebrating a giant leap.” Ah yes, the half century anniversary of the moon landing.

Below the fold: “Brutal heat wave still grips half of U.S.” New York City canceled its man on the moon fest for lack of astronaut-like apparel to protect Mr. and Mrs. America from extreme temperatures.

No such constraints halted the annual Stewart Park Festival, in the nearby picture postcard town of Perth. Children frolicked in the cooling eddies of the Tay River, while their elders sat on lawn chairs and listened to Montreal’s alt-country folk band, El Coyote, sing of love, loss…and partying.

The news from Florida this brutal summer of our discontent has been unrelentingly bad. Still more flesh-eating bacteria victims. More toxic blue-green algae contamination. The reefs are dying.

“Forget eggs. If global action isn’t taken on climate change people could grill steaks on the sidewalk,” cautions another Sun story. “…scientists project ‘off-the-chart’ heat indexes of up to 130 degrees.”

We are like frogs in a pan of cold water. So far so good, but the temperature keeps inching up by degrees.

And Canada isn’t immune. Ottawa is having its hottest July ever. Montreal just recorded its highest temperature period. There have been 54 heat-related deaths in Quebec…so far.

Like much of the American west, forest fires have been taking their toll up here too. Tick-related Lyme Disease is on the, um, uptick. Arctic ice is melting. On Wolfe Island, in the St. Lawrence River, Big Sandy beach was closed due to flooding and erosion.

And, our neighbor solemnly informs us, the corn is late this year.

But at least Canada admits it has a problem and is trying to confront it. The most striking visuals on scenic Wolfe Island are the 86 giant wind turbines thrusting up out of the wetlands and into the sky. Part of Ontario’s commitment to phase out coal fired plants.

And so far no reports of increased cancer cases among the islanders, Donald.

Listen, nobody up here minds my sort of climate refugee. We bring assets and can be counted upon to go home.

Our county commissioner, Robert Hutchinson, and his wife Meg rented a houseboat on the St. Lawrence for a week and were able to download an app that made moving back and forth from the Canadian to American side no trouble at all.

“The differences between the northern and southern borders of the US couldn’t be more stark,” Hutch posted on Facebook.

But that could change. A fair number of the masses trying to get into the U.S. via Mexico are already climate refugees. And whose to say that, in a generation or so, Canada won’t be similarly deluged as south-of-its-border hordes flee an unlivable Arizona, Florida, Utah or Louisiana?

In Kingston we toured Ft. Henry, part of a chain of ramparts built by 19th century Canadians who feared a U.S. invasion. The day may come when our friendly neighbors to the north will start talking about their own wall to keep us out.

Oh Canada.

(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Published in The Sun July 28, 19.)