Wrapping an anti-15-minute city rant in Catholic BS, and an “overly powerful bike lobby” gets everything it wants — or not

I guess I missed that day in catechism class.

A writer for the Catholic Herald — a publication which, unto now, I have been blissfully unaware, despite a conservative Catholic upbringing — professes to make “the Catholic argument against 15-minute cities.”

Never mind that Jesus was a pedestrian who likely lived in one.

The thesis of a 15-minute city is that everything you need for daily life should be found within a 15-minutes walk, bike or transit ride of your home.

That’s it.

And as much as I strain my memory, I can’t recall any teachings of Jesus or the disciples that so much as mention it, let alone condemn it.

But that doesn’t stop the author, who will remain unnamed here to protect the guilty.

At face value, the idea seems desirable and has much to commend it. But I can’t help smell a rat, especially following Covid lockdowns and the increasingly “nudgy” and authoritarian-lite sheen to public policies these days. I suspect the great Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc would have agreed, given what he had to say about the intractable struggle between Catholicism and socialism.

“The Catholic Church, acutely conscious as she is of the abominations of the modern industrial and capitalistic system…refuses to cure it at the expense of denying a fundamental principle of morality, the principle of private ownership, which applies quite as much to the means of production as to any other class of material objects,” Belloc wrote in his 1908 essay The Church and Socialism. 

Currently the “material object” most in the crosshairs that bureaucrats and activists are obsessing over – in terms of reducing your use of it or simply taking it away altogether- is your car.

Huh?

I don’t know of any version of the 15-minute city philosophy that involves taking away anyone’s car.

Nor is there a damn thing socialistic about the concept. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Unless maybe you don’t approve of Medicare and social security. And don’t get me started on the inherent socialism in this country’s subsidizing of motor vehicle usage.

If anything, the 15-minute city is about enabling personal freedom to move about as you choose, without forcing you into a motor vehicle just to get groceries, get to work or get healthcare.

Or even get to church, temple, mosque or wherever you choose to worship, or not.

You can walk. You can bike. You can take a bus or train. Or — tres shock! — you can even drive, if you so choose.

But wait, as they say in informercials, there’s more.

The “fundamental thesis of Socialism”, as Belloc highlights, is “that man would be better and happier were the means of production in human society, that is, land and machinery and all transport [my italics], controlled by government rather than by private persons or corporations.”

I’ve experienced transport being excessively controlled by the Taliban, and I can assure you it sucks. Their IED campaign in Afghanistan’s Helmand province was so deadly effective that the British Army lost its freedom of movement. Admittedly the use of IEDs is an extreme form of traffic fines—but the principle is the same: someone else interdicting your movement. It changes everything.

Can you say, “non sequitur?”

Sure you can.

Again, socialism has nothing to do with the 15-minute city. If anything, it enables capitalism in its purest and simplest sense, since it enables you to do business with local merchants, right where you live.

But it does nothing to prevent you from doing business across town, across the country or across the globe.

And no, it has nothing to do with IEDs or any other kind of explosives.

Yet he goes on.

Of course he does.

Thanks to the vagaries of freelancing, I’ve also experienced various prolonged periods of not owning a car and I can confirm that it is tedious, limiting and exhausting, as you set off, once again, peddling like a maniac to make it on time. Not having a car is even harder if you are coordinating a family (once again, public policy seems set on disincentivising the family unit, while punishing those who have children).

Somehow, he turns that into an argument against being able to live without a car.

Go figure.

Where, pray tell, is freedom represented in forcing people to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every month to own and use motor vehicles, just to access the things and services they need?

And just where is the love and forgiveness of God in his supposed Catholic essay?

Because there is absolutely nothing Catholic about his arguments. Rather, what he penned was an essay about the dangers of socialism, under the mistaken belief it has anything to do with the 15-minute city, and tried to shoehorn Catholicism in.

Not faith. Not religion. Not even Christianity, because what he writes has nothing to do with it in any shape or form.

It is ironic that his essay appeared on Palm Sunday, which marks the pre-Passover entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a lowly donkey.

Because, as we noted earlier, there is no reason to believe that the biblical city was anything other than a 15-minute city, because even though it held over half a million people, most local residents were unlikely to walk outside of their own neighborhoods to meet most of their needs.

Because most would likely have to walk, especially the poor.

It was the Romans and the wealthy who used horses, chariots and wagons, the motor vehicles of their day, to go beyond their own communities.

Which means there’s a far greater Catholic argument for a 15-minute city than against it.

Photo of the inside of the Vatican by Photo by Luis Núñez from Pexels.

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A Chicago letter writer alleges that bike riders don’t belong in traffic, and that the city is in the throes of an overly powerful bike lobby that gets everything it wants.

Am I the only one who has noticed that building bike lanes to make cycling in city traffic safe is a lot like putting filter tips on cigarettes to make smoking tobacco safe? A cosmetic change isn’t going to change the fact that for traffic, the bicycle is a fatally flawed product from the start…

Instead of spending the taxpayers’ money to force more bike lanes down the public’s throats, perhaps the politicians could learn to ask us first if this is what we want, rather than just giving an overly powerful lobby everything they want.

Funny how only people who don’t ride bikes think there’s a powerful bicycle lobby. And those of us who ride bikes think we can’t get anyone to actually listen to us.

Never mind that the best way to get bikes out of city traffic is to build bike lanes, which most surveys tend to show are overwhelmingly popular.

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Pink Bike says two young Chilean kids probably ride better than you do.

Or better than I do, anyway.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on rolling.

San Luis Obispo’s curmudgeonly anti-bike columnist blames bike lanes for destroying the livability of the city’s neighborhoods, even though most people would likely say they do just the opposite. And he objects to rising bike path construction costs, somehow forgetting that construction costs are going up virtually everywhere, for everything.

An English man had to play dead to stop an attack by four muggers who violently assaulted him and stole his £3,500 e-mountain bike, the equivalent of over $4,300.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

Pennsylvania state police are on the lookout for a 61-year old scofflaw cyclist who gave them a fake ID, then fled into the woods on his bike after they discovered he was wanted in two states.

An English bike rider allegedly got off his bicycle and punched a man in his 70s in the face, after startling the older man by riding past him on the sidewalk.

Police in the UK are looking for a hit-and-run bike rider who seriously injured a 77-year-old woman in Leeds by crashing into her while riding on the sidewalk.

Police in Milan, Italy are looking for the bike-riding man who stabbed a pair of Egyptian brothers when they got out of their car to check on him after a wrong-way crash.

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Local 

Urbanize looks forward to the Mid-City to Pico Union CicLAvia in less than two weeks.

Avril Lavigne is one of us, and so is rapper Tyga, as the couple share an ebike on a ride on the beaches of the ‘Bu.

 

State

Bike and safety advocates press the case that San Diego isn’r doing enough to protect bicyclists and pedestrians, demanding increased funding for Vision Zero. Based on the 29 people killed in the county over the past two years, they’re right. Thanks to Phillip Young for the heads-up. 

The plague of ebike battery fires hit close to home after one exploded when a man poured water on a battery fire as it was being recharged in a couple’s living room in San Diego’s Barrio Logan; he was burned on his arms and legs, while their apartment was destroyed in the fire.

Completing our San Diego trifecta, a local TV station says business owners are up in arms over the loss of 300 parking spots in the Convoy District to build a pair of separated bike lanes, even though that’s at least partially offset by 171 new angled parking spaces.

The Vista city council approved $1.7 million to build a series of separated bike lanes. Even if they are just using plastic bollards. And hopefully the nice, thicks ones, rather than the flimsy car-tickler bendy posts. 

Bakersfield officials officially opened a new bike path providing a continuous loop around Lake Ming, completing a 30-mile lake-to-lake bike path. Thanks to Geri for the heads-up. 

Sad news from Redwood City, where someone riding a bicycle was killed by a hit-and-run driver Friday night.

An Oakland TV station says the 100-member San Ramon Valley Mountain Bike Club, composed of middle and high school students, has doubled the membership of young woman over the past year, when the team apparently had five and a half girls.

 

National

A writer for the Wall Street Journal makes a very Shoup-ian case for why the US has too much parking, in a story that for some reason isn’t hidden behind their draconian paywall, at least for now. Unless you’re talking secure bike parking, of course, in which case there isn’t nearly enough.

AutoEvolution says bikemakers are getting very close to replacing the car with the latest bicycle cargo haulers.

Denver officials are hoping the ebike craze continues, in an effort to replace vehicle miles with cleaner bike traffic.

Tragic news from Houston, where bicyclists are calling for more visible trail closure signs after a bike rider died last week when his bike apparently got tangled up in orange construction netting while riding at night.

Texas pedestrian and bicyclist traffic crash deaths increased a whopping 34% and 58%, respectively over a five-year period.

He gets it. A Portland letter writer says safe and secure bike parking does as much as good infrastructure to create more riders.

Last week we mentioned the shameful theft of a three-year old Maine kid’s Spider-Man bicycle while he was shopping with his mom. But there’s good news this time, after an anonymous Good Samaritan — in keeping with today’s Biblical theme — gave him a new one, plus matching helmet and bike lock.

Bicyclists from all over the US descended on DC over the weekend to demand ebike tax credits and road safety funding, as traffic deaths continue to rise.

Take an ebike tour of eight iconic DC monuments, memorials and museums.

Bad news from Durham, North Carolina, where the city’s budget director was killed in a collision with a speeding driver while riding his bicycle; he was also the bestselling author of Wish You Were Here: A Murdered Girl, A Brother’s Quest and the Hunt for a Canadian Serial Killer.

There’s a special place in hell for the man who attacked a Florida boy who was riding his bike to school, and stole his bicycle; fortunately, kindhearted Clearwater cops bought the 5th grader a new bike so he could ride home the same night.

 

International

Cyclist says when you’re buying a new bike, listen to your heart, not your head.

Cycling Weekly answers the burning question of whether you’re better off with a cycling computer or a smartphone app.

Tragic news from Brazil, where a 43-year old man died after he swallowed a bee while riding his bike, and went into anaphylactic shock when it stung the inside of his throat. I once swallowed something winged and fuzzy, which was when I learned to ride with my mouth closed. 

British Columbia’s Pique Newsmagazine says the pandemic bike boom is over, which means there’s never been a better time to buy a bicycle.

A blind English man was lucky to get his $2,400 adaptive tandem bike back after police recovered the stolen bike in a drug raid.

The New York Post reviews Scottish endurance bicyclist Jenny Graham’s memoir of her record-breaking ride around the world through 16 countries and four continents, covering 18,000 miles in just 124 days.

Business owners in the UK opposed to a Cornwall bikeway warn that people using it could be jeopardized by truck mirrors overhanging the bike path. Which is a better argument for keeping trucks the hell away from it.

A pair of British men plan to pedal in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, riding 125 miles through the Jordanian desert to historic sites visited by the legendary TE Lawrence during WWI.

Turkmenistan’s annual World Health Day celebrations culminated with thousands of people in matching track suits pedaling green bicycles matching the national flag attached to each one.

Indian bikemakers say mandatory minimum standards and upgrading technology are just two of the five keys to turning around the country’s bicycle industry.

All Japanese bicyclists are now required to wear a helmet at all times, though compliance is in question, since there are no penalties for not complying.

 

Competitive Cycling

Tadej Pogačar took Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, as Mathieu van der Poel settled for second, acknowledging that he just didn’t have enough to overtake the Slovenian two-time Tour de France champ.

American Matteo Jorgenson was happy to finish in the top ten at Flanders, taking ninth place, although fellow American Neilson Powless had him beat with a fifth place finish in just his second cobblestone classic.

Poland’s Filip Maciejuk was DQ’d for causing a huge crash in the Tour of Flanders after losing control of his bike by swerving into deep grass, then cutting back onto the road and into the peloton, but at least he says he’s sorry.

Meanwhile, Belgian Lotte Kopecky won her second consecutive victory in the women’s Tour of Flanders, in a breakaway victory over Demi Vollering.

 

Finally…

Presenting a weight weenie’s worst nightmare, with the world’s heaviest rideable bicycle — or tricycle, anyway. When you’re on parole for killing a bike rider, with a revoked driver’s license, maybe try sticking to the speed limit. Or not driving to begin with.

And to paraphrase the immortal words of Richard Nixon, Paris won’t have e-scooters to kick around anymore.

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Thanks again to Matthew Robertson for his generous monthly donation to keep all the best bike news and advocacy coming your way every day. As always, donations are always welcome and truly appreciated, whether repeating or otherwise.

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Ramadan Mubarak to all observing the Islamic holy month. 

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Oh, and fuck Putin, too.

One comment

  1. Ralph says:

    A rant against authoritarianism by a Catholic? I would venture to say that Christianity, and by extension all religions of the God Of Abraham, is authoritarian from the get go.
    First Commandment: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3)