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Re: “Theory and Practice of Integral Sustainable Development: Part 1”

  •  08-10-2006, 12:21 PM

    Re: “Theory and Practice of Integral Sustainable Development: Part 1”

    Here's an example I've encountered in my professional career as a bicycle transportation advocate/educator...

    I ran a survey of our organization's members and potential members asking what their top priorities were when it comes to biking. The overwelming answer was safety. Makes sense, right? Being safe is a basic need for everyone, obviously. So we got our goal for our organization spelled out for us right off the bat: improve safety.

    But then the various members and employees of the organization jump ahead to the conclusion that more bike lanes are what we need to fight for. Bike lanes look great to many people and seem to promote biking.

    So now the organization miraculously has the Lower and Upper Left solutions for reaching our goal, and people go to work on creating the corresponding Lower Right laws and policies to back up the idea of seperate lanes for bicyclists. Pretty much everyone thinks we're golden.

    The problem is, the poor little Upper Right quadrant gets lost in the excitement. No one ever questions whether or not bike lanes actually increase safety. Lots of people believe they do, but no real UR investigation is ever done! And if someone does wander into the UR and points this out, they are considered a troublemaker. Occasionally, the bike lane proponents (perhaps the engineers at MIT who consider themselves so very, very Upper Right!) may try and appease the UR by conducting studies on the bike lanes. But these studies end up being seriously biased by the UL (statistics are gathered by asking bicyclists if they like the bike lanes and feel safer in them, and so they naturally "prove" that the UL was right all along.

    It's all so comical. Until there are real safety problems with a bike lane. When a woman died while biking smack dab in the middle of a bike lane, the only thing not considered as part of the problem was the bike lane itself. Blame was attributed to society, the victim, and the vehicles involved (all of which were certainly useful to look at). But the bike lane itself, which was so entrenched in UR, LR, and LL, completely escaped scrutiny.

    By the way, I'm not suggesting that bike lanes are inherently dangerous, but some are, and certainly they are promoted without any real basis in UR reality. Lots of people love bike lanes because they feel safer than being in mixed traffic. But UL feelings of safety aren't necessarily correlated with UR physical safety. And also, the LR consequences of segregated traffic patterns are mixed, at best (that whole "seperate, but equal" doesn't always work so well, and being relegated to the edges of the roadway may increase the sense of bicyclists being outcasts, and not really belonging on the roads).

    I wish I had had the AQ mapping system back then, so that I could have at least had a clearer basis for understanding the issue. I'm thinking that a lot of sustainablility issues might suffer from a similar lack of UR views, based on the very UL and LL motivations of many of the people involved.

    Peace, Love, and (safe!) Bicycles,
    Turtle
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