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What do you think when you read the following?

Cars are great, but I don’t think the city is a safe place to drive them.

Cars don’t belong on the street. If you want to go for a drive, use the freeway — it was built specifically for cars.

Cyclists found not guilty of causing death of a driver as the sun was in their eyes.

“You DROVE here? In the RAIN?”

“Oh, you drive a car? You’re so brave. Have you ever had an accident?”

“What bothers me about cars is how often you see drivers just completely disobeying all the traffic laws”

These are just some of the many recent tweets using the hash tag #ReplaceBigWithCar, and I like how they manage to be funny and meaningful with such brevity.

The reason that they work is that once people fall into certain habits they make a mental framework of the world around them. This is “the way things are” to them; it doesn’t represent or act as a place-holder for reality, it is their reality, which for many people is that the way to get around, to commute, get groceries, you hop in your car.

Cities are designed by placing zones and then linking them by roads to get the cars from one zone to another. The work zone, the shopping zone, the living zone. It doesn’t really matter where they are because cars are fast.

Even the economy is centred around the car, with manufacturer being “too big to fail.” Constructing highways is termed as “investing in infrastructure, creating jobs.”

The truth of the matter is that this reality works, in its own way. But it’s an expensive reality, not just in direct costs but also in health, environmental and societal costs.

It’s not the only reality

It’s perfectly plausible to commute to work, get groceries, shopping and run errands all on your bike. It’s possible to design cities for getting around by bike. The Dutch do it. Why can’t we?

But there’s winter

You’re still stuck in your old reality. Cars couldn’t get around in winter without solutions to permit it. Getting around by bike just needs a different set of solutions. Instead of huge stores in the suburbs with even bigger parking lots, have down town malls linked by covered roads that you bike in. Or bike tunnels. Or just clear the path before it gets too slippery.

I like my reality better

Changing your reality takes more than realigning your brain. It’s simultaneously really easy and really hard. It’s easy because it doesn’t take anything other than a bike and an attitude. It’s hard because it’s so ingrained in yourself – it’s the very reality of the world around you.

Which reality is for you?


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