Thursday, January 28, 2010

A morning ride w/ a friend

This morning I spot a fellow rider/activist friend carrying her bike over the train tracks. See, the path leading through the SC Harbor to Murray St is a bike commuter's dream come true - quiet, no auto traffic, and you pass docked boats, seagulls and pelicans - very serene. That is, until you reach the Murray St bridge and the path collides with rocks, dirt, and railroad tracks. Sure, if you're headed for the beach, you can just go under the bridge but if you got business to attend to....Then it's get off your bike, pick up your bike, carry your bike over the tracks, set your bike down in the bike lane of busy busy busy Murray St, and then very carefully start to ride.

I slow down and let her catch up...

"You know, I hear someday, in our lifetime, the rail trail thing is actually gonna happen," I say, half jokingly. (For those outside of Santa Cruz, the Rail Trail plan would pave a bike path adjacent to the railroad that traverses Santa Cruz County and save all of us the trouble of riding alongside cars...or carrying our bikes over the tracks for that matter.

"I'll believe it when I see it," she says or something to that effect.

we keep riding, careful to not edge too much outside the bike lane and risk car horns, death or worse, being regulated to driving a car; but also careful not to edge too close to the curb as there are branches, sewer gates, weeds, and other miscellaneous storm-related debris. (It would seem that when it comes to road conditions, bicyclists get the "separate but equal" digs, which is to say, the crappiest part of the road).

we pass a guy with a leaf blower. my riding partner comments why can't he use a push broom? I agree but point out labor wise, it's cheaper to use a gas-powered leaf-blower. She counters that it's not cost effective if you add in the true cost in terms of damage done to the environment - the oil used to manufacture the noisy contraption, the oil necessary to make it run, and the labor short-changed by the contraption, not to mention the general unpleasantness of anyone within earshot (not that cars have to deal with this).

I agree, I totally agree, I adore this woman's comprehension of the big picture and snarky sense of injustice. But, inevitably, the conversation steers toward the same area of disagreement that liberals and anarchists find themselves in when it comes to envisioning solutions (or foreseeable outcomes)...

"The problem is, the value of clean air, pristine wild forests is unquantifiable. if we started factoring in the true cost of industrial production and consumption, there's no way we could afford it, the entire system would collapse."

"Yes but we're in charge of this system. We can change it."

"I guess that's where we disagree. I mean, you and I are not in charge of this system. We never see the folks in charge, and besides, this system is a self-perpetuating product of technology, backed up by a huge hierarchical corporate state apparatus..."

"If enough of us got together, we could shout loudly enough for those above to hear us. They'd have to act."

I shake my head. I realize the precise moment in this conversation where our philosophies went their separate ways. If only she'd said, "the entire system collapsing might not be such a bad thing," then I would have said, "Yes!" But no, I try to find a happy middle ground and say, "thankfully, gas-powered leaf-blowers won't be around much longer." I'm referring to peak oil but I'm not sure she knows it, and honestly, I'm not sure if what I'm predicting will come true...Instead, she changes the subject and we keep riding.

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