We hope you missed Christopher Caldwell's op-ed in the pro-car New York Times opinion section the other day. The piece, "Something Has Changed on City Streets, and Amazon Is to Blame," started out, non-controversially, with a complaint about all the deliveries that are clogging our streets: "The quantum leap in e-commerce ... has brought hundreds of thousands of vans onto the streets. They’re big. ... Streets that were tight but passable have often wound up blocked off."
And Caldwell is right to point out that Amazon doesn't compensate the public for all the public space it occupies: "We find ourselves in a de facto negotiation over how Amazon and other delivery networks will compensate the country for their partial takeover of the publicly funded road system that makes up a large part of their work space. Concessions can and should be extracted from Amazon."
But then ... he veered into insanity and hysteria, aided and abetted by editors at the Times who are either unaware of what he's doing or secretly agree with him: "The politics of repurposing roads looks like the politics of anything else over the last decade or so: a tense battle between a bunch of elite planners doubting the public’s wisdom and a seething public doubting the elite’s legitimacy.
"Bikes are another example. Based on fleeting declines in car traffic during the Covid lockdowns, many zealous city councils made a big bet on bike lanes. To put it less delicately, they cynically transferred the benefit of lots of public property from car commuters and small retail businesses to bike-riding elites and corporate e-businesses."
He called that "a class-based politics aimed against those who can’t afford real estate within biking distance of the city center."
Caldwell is factually wrong about a lot of this — fact: most cities were expanding bike lanes long before Covid hit. Fact: bike lanes have been shown to help small businesses, and there's nothing "cynical" about repurposing roads away from an inefficient mode (the single-person, 100-square-foot car) to a bike — but what's worse is that he's a fossil fuel shill.
As David Morse pointed out on the internet — but you could look it up yourself — Caldwell works for the Claremont Institute, which is funded with Koch Brothers, Scaife and DeVos money, and says its mission is “to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority.”
Except, apparently, where cars are concerned. There weren't any cars parked in front of Independence Hall in '76, but that doesn't mean the right wing doesn't still prefer them to bikes. In any event, the Times opinion page editors should read their own Sunday magazine, where the Claremont Institute was described in great, and quite unflattering, detail last year.
In other news:
Seriously, how much more defending of reckless driving is the Staten Island Advance going to let columnist Tom Wrobleski engage in? It's ridiculous at this point. Speeding kills.
Covid-19 transformed many U.S. cities' approach to sustainable transportation forever. But how did it transform the lives of sustainable transportation advocates who developed lasting symptoms from the disease?
The Department of Transportation wants the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program to simply expire in part because it did not dramatically improve safety among these worst-of-the-worst drivers and led to a tiny number of vehicle seizures.