Hello, My Name is Andrew Bedno, and I'm here to speak on the subject of “Bicycling, Transportation Equity and Prospects of a Car-Free City”, or my simplified title, “The Future Is Low-Car”
Over the past few years I've gained increasing notoriety as something of a cycling and skating activist, primarily due to taking on the job of coordinating Chicago's running of the World Naked Bike Ride. (pause for titters) For the unfamiliar I'll explain. The World Naked Bike Ride is a fairly well known and respected international event now in its sixth year. It is primarily an anti-oil event, using the Lady Godiva method for attention, while also including and involving naturalist interests. The event's been around long enough that at this point it is not so much an anti-oil protest any more, as it is a celebration of the end of the oil era.
I'd like to open now with some on the asphalt reporting on the vigorous state of cycling in Chicago. This context will help you truly visualize what can be real, when I discuss the future later.
The Chicago Naked Ride is no dismissible novelty. In June 2008 we set the world's turnout record with a verifiable one thousand seven hundred riders. To me this is an undeniable example of the future manifesting. A future where cars are largely gone, and hotter summers have reduced clothes. Some typical taglines from the ride are "burns fat not oil", "no concealed weapons", "naked is how vulnerable I feel sharing the road with cars". Some other faves include "more ass less gas" and the classic "my bush would make a better president". My slogan of choice is "bikes fight terrorism", because you formerly couldn't go wrong using administration buzz words. For more info please visit ChicagoNakedRide.org
Among cyclists, Chicago is also well known for the large monthly Critical Mass rides. Critical Mass has been held on the last Friday each month in hundreds of cities internationally for more than a decade. Chicago routinely draws several thousand riders each summer month. I personally was part of the 3000 person tenth anniversary Chicago mass. Rare European rides reportedly draw tens of thousands!
In Chicago this ride occupies Daley Plaza starting just after rush hour, and winds about a dozen miles through Chicago, in a largely unguided and organic manner. It may sound absurd that a mass of cyclists this large can function leaderlessly, but I've been part of it for years, and I assure you it's true. And as such is the most successful example of functional anarchy I've personally experienced.
Critical Mass is free of agenda, more like a fun ride. A happy hometown Friday upsized to massive urban scale. These rides completely fill the streets for miles, taking 10-15 minutes to fully pass a point. Cars caused to wait seem like sadly pathetic smoking steam engines or dumb doomed dinosaurs, which admittedly sometimes rage like cavemen. This friction makes them, I feel, effectively also a civil rights leading edge. Participants are demanding no more than what cars already enjoy, and persists despite angry and ignorant opposition, because it is the right thing to do. As such Critical Mass is both a wonderful biking event, and an unintentional cultural front line.
Chicago also boasts a number of world-class cycling events. The kinds that draw multi-nationally, and sell out tens of thousands of registrations months in advance. Finally, quickly lumping together some actually very major things, Chicago also has unparalleled bike path systems, lanes, working activists, and long term plans. This is your city, ranked one of the most bike friendly cities in the world, a city of the future.
Considering all this, already to some small percentage our city and others ARE car-free.
Going forward, growing unstoppable forces I will now detail are digging the automobile's overdue grave.
Hence, the notion of a low-car future becomes not a prospect, but a certainty.