Infrastructure maintenance and the role of magical thinking

Editor’s note: Riding a bicycle in Illinois is different from riding a bicycle in other places. If you’re reading this in the Netherlands, your reality may differ. Carry on.

Here’s a right of way covered with ice and snow because the park district doesn’t maintain it in the winter.

You may have a similar right of way in your area. The facility may be the responsibility of your local park district, city, county or state.

Why aren’t such trails, paths and sidewalks cleared? Obvious reasons include:

  • It takes effort
  • It takes money
  • It’s cold outside
  • It’s a recreational place; not an important place
  • It’s a place for them, not us
  • No one’s asking for it
  • No one’s voting for it
  • No one goes out in the winter without a car

Some reasons are true; some are partially true; some are false and unchallenged. But let’s set aside all of that for a second and consider another possibility.

Welcome to Hogwarts

Government believes things that come in twos, like feet and bicycle wheels, are magical things, capable of feats beyond the realm of physics.

At the same time it believes that things that come in fours, like car tires, are helpless things, firmly mired in the reality of this world and, if not assiduously cared for, in ice and snow at the side of the road.

If you believe in magic, you don’t plan for it and you don’t encourage it: It just happens. People on their own—old people, young people, people on bicycles, people with two feet, even people without feet—simply float over snowbanks and glide over ice flows.

Government believes the realm of people on their own does not intersect with the realms of gravity and friction coefficients.

It’s a wizard’s world after all

Look at any sidewalk under all the snow tossed to the side by the plow: Do you see footsteps? Maybe here and there, but nothing to indicate all the people who need that right of way.

Where are all the footsteps? You guessed it: magic. Just because you don’t see people levitating above the snow on the way to the grocery store doesn’t mean they aren’t.

It isn’t in the nature of magic to broadcast its existence.

Now consider the truly helpless: all those car and truck tires. Can you imagine if government believed in the magic of things that come in fours? Automobility would smother under winter’s forceful pillow. How would all those sport utility vehicles get through?

What’s that? You see SUVs do it all the time in television advertising?

You forget. Television, like the internet, is a magical thing. It doesn’t represent reality, unless you think it does and you act on that belief.

By the way, let me know how your parole hearing goes.

But we control the horizontal

In so far as it believes anything, and this may seem wildly counter to recent experience, government believes in reality. It makes sure that taxes are levied and monies are spent so a certain reality continues—since the twentieth century, so that cars and trucks, those helpless things that need our collective help to exist, keep moving in winter.

People on foot? People on bicycles? People in wheelchairs? Government doesn’t oppose them; it simply treats them the same as other magical things.
It ignores them, believing with all its collective heart that the levitation will continue.

And so we float.

And so we forget, as we bob along, that we the people are not separate from our government, but of it. That we share a common reality and the responsibility to suggest improvements to it.

Especially if some of our suggestions seem magical.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Advocacy, Infrastructure and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Infrastructure maintenance and the role of magical thinking

  1. Jane Joslin Kennedy says:

    In my town, home owners must, by ordinance (law?), clear the sidewalks around their property. I don’t know how the sidewalks along major roads are cleared. What I do know is that we have bicycle lanes along those major roads. For the last several months I have often taken to the bicycle lane to give 6 feet of distance to another walker. Imagine my frustration when I’m walking and a cyclist rides on the sidewalk. I don’t care if they use the sidewalk. BUT I expect them to either move to the bike lane or dismount when they come up to me. One man actually rode up behind me and said, “I’m trying to avoid danger [in the bike lane when no cars, NOR SNOW, was in sight].” His helmet would have come in handy if I were prone to violence.

    • Yeah, bicycles on sidewalks—don’t get me started. Peoria has one main off-road multi-use (pedestrian/bicycle) trail. But it also has unmarked multi-use facilities. These are noticeably wider than sidewalks, but, again, unmarked, which makes it more confusing for people on bicycles. Heck, it confuses me.

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