Recession? What Recession?

Yes, yes, I know, I know. The stock market’s declining, unemployment’s rising. Everybody from GM to Wal-Mart is madly trying to sell stuff at merely three times what it’s worth. Hell, you can even buy a tank of gasoline these days without putting up your granddaughters as collateral. Hardly an hour goes by without some media pundit somewhere trying to pump up ratings (not to mention company profits) by selling the recession.

Beg your pardon (especially if you’re one of those who’ve been caught with your pension, or your employer, down), but there isn’t much recession evidence in this neighborhood.

Our bikeway says so.

Y’see, back when they built the divided highway in our part of O‘ahu’s southern shore, somebody made sure that they built a nice big four-foot wide bikeway on each side. A wonderful and insightful provision for the hopeful, energy- and ecology-conscious (not to mention broke) bicycle commuter into Honolulu.

(Of course, the bikeway vanishes into a disaster area of shopping malls and overpasses halfway to town. And any bicycle rider who actually survives that gauntlet and gets to town needs to carry 50 pounds of locks and chains and sirens, to ensure that the bicycle will remain where it is parked long enough to provide transportation for the return trip. Assuming it can be parked where the police won’t confiscate … oh, another time, shall we?)

Most every morning, and again most every evening during the work week, you will find me and my cheap Taiwanese bicycle on that bikeway. Yes, the sight of an Amoeba on a bicycle is only slightly less startling than seeing a frog on one. You’d think such a spectacle would draw a crowd. Eh?

Not so you’d notice.

The only people I ever see on that bike path are all dressed up like Lance Armstrong, in Spandex-coated advertising labels and not much more. I think. It’s kinda hard to tell. By the time I notice them passing, they’re already a mile down the road. There’s about six of them, on racing bikes that weigh, all together, less than the front wheel on my machine. After they flash by, it’s just me and the empty asphalt.

And the cars standing bumper to bumper across the remaining three lanes of highway.

I was thinking last Friday evening, after dodging the second car to pull suddenly out of a driveway in front of me, and the third one to pass me just this side of an intersection and then make a hard right turn, that if there really were a recession going on, the bike lanes would be full and the car lanes empty – apart from the buses that, at the moment, run on this route nearly as empty as the bikeway. If We the People were serious about saving energy and money, not to mention the planet through shutting down the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming (yes, residents of Washington State, I said “global warming“; kindly put down your snow shovels, pull the earmuffs off your ears, and pay attention), wouldn’t that be what we’d be doing? Wouldn’t that be a Good Thing?

Then I remembered the last time I did any serious walking, through town or the University campus. When I insisted on walking on the street, rather than the sidewalks. Because the streets were safer. Because the streets didn’t have bicyclists rushing up behind you and then past you, giving you no clue whatsoever to their location or their intentions. One zig when a zag is called for, and the emergency services have to clean up a dead pedestrian.

This actually happened to a colleague of mine some years ago. He was walking down the street, minding his own business (he might have been on his way to the mailbox outside his house), when he was smacked down by a bicyclist, and killed instantly.

I constantly hear about how Honolulu is not a bicycle-friendly place, how its infrastructure fails to support bicycling in any useful way. I reckon that the infrastructure of Honolulu fails to support any form of transportation in any useful way. The place is too damn small for the number of people it’s got on it, and the money for improvements is scarce right now – there’s a recession on, remember?

And bicyclists, as a class (apart from the Lance Armstrong types, who usually are both good and knowledgeable citizens) are, in my experience, the most likely of all users to do violence to both the letter and the spirit of the rules of the road. That, I think, makes them their own worst enemies when it comes to competing with drivers and walkers for highway resources.

So I guess I’m dreaming when I think the recession might bite hard enough around here to replace any significant number of the cars around here with bikes.

Besides. How many workplaces do you know of that have someplace for bicycle commuters to shower and change after their rides?

  O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions expressed are mine, as a private citizen.


  1. “Besides. How many workplaces do you know of that have someplace for bicycle commuters to shower and change after their rides?” Actually… the hospital where I work has bike lockers in the parking garage for people who ride their bikes to work and in each floor’s nursing locker room there is a shower room for employees. So I know of at least one.

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