Friday, April 10, 2009

Our state bird seen near Oz Park

On this sunny and brisk spring morning, I spotted a beautiful cardinal just off of Oz Park.

I have a car (three, in fact), and yet people ask me why I spend so much time on public transportation, bicycles, and on foot. They also wonder why I bend over backwards trying to make carpool plans instead of traveling alone when these alternatives are not possible. Forgive the pun, but this picture represents the cardinal reason. A personal vehicle gives us amazing freedom, but there are trade-offs. Our personal needs get in the way of other things that need to use the right-of-way.

Every bus on the street means 50 or more cars off the street; if you want to know why buses tend to get bunched up, it is because there are always several hundred cars in the way, jockeying for pole position with every bus, slowing them down and interfering with their schedules. There are many other bizarre aspects of our car culture, including the very complicated funding scheme that subsidizes our street and highway systems with everything but direct taxes on automobile use. If car drivers were paying by the mile for their use of our streets and highways, it could cost as much as $10 per mile to travel by car. But the costs are hidden elsewhere, mostly in federal income and city property taxes, and buried in such strange places as defense budgets on the federal level and chamber of commerce activities on the local level, such as we've seen with the Clark Street SSA, where residents paid for the street's resurfacing and streetscaping and most of them aren't even aware of it.

I use a car only as a last resort, and when I do I try to keep in mind what a great privilege it is to have one and to be able to use it.

I have a handicapped placard on order from the state, and I've just applied to Vi Daley for a handicapped space in front of our house, for my mother, who now travels in a wheelchair. Every day I see people abusing handicapped placards. You can only apply for a handicapped placard if there is someone in the family who cannot walk without assistance. You can only use a handicapped placard when that person is traveling with you. If anyone ever sees me abusing my handicapped parking privileges, I hope they publicize it.