A protest with every pedal

” It’s funny, but one of the most empowering acts of activism you can do for Los Angeles and its future, if you love the city, is to engage in public transportation.” – Joshua Dysart from “Without a Car” in the current Orion magazine, p. 33

Apparently, LA is a lot like my former small-Bible Belt-town of Winona Lake, Indiana (weird, huh?) in that there is very little non-automobile transit. In Winona Lake, if you walk or bicycle, you are one of the few. If you walk, you might even find that people offer you rides because they feel sorry for you! In LA it is similar to Winona Lake in another way: people drive even if they are only going a few blocks.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

3 thoughts on “A protest with every pedal”

  1. In Europe it’s a lot easier to use public transport, bicycles, and walking to get from place to place. From my observation, European countries consist of densely-populated cities and towns separated by large areas of low population traversed by small number of connecting roads. In the US, ever-expanding suburban sprawl is supported by ever-expanding networks of roads. This geographic spread makes it more difficult to provide public transport: more buses and tram routes are needed to cover areas of low population density, which increases costs and transport time.

    I just skimmed two reports on transportation subsidies in Europe. Both observe that private auto transport is more heavily subsidized that public transport, because governments pay for building and maintaining roads and highways. This subsidy of the private auto is even heavier in the US.


  2. That’s really intriguing information….it never quite occurred to me that a) the U.S. has a more extensive road system than most (all?) other nations and b) that this is a direct form of auto subsidy……Yet another example of how the federal government subsidizes private industry and then allows industry to keep the profits. The people pay the bills, the wealthy enjoy the bounty….perhaps a bit of an oversimplification on my part; but there is a myth that business should keep profits because they are the ones that made the investment, but this simply isn’t factually accurate. It is a false premise used to justify ever lower tax brackets for corporations and the wealthy.

    Thanks, John, for sharing that info.


  3. In a related story, the Congressional Budget Office is pushing the idea of a “vehicle-miles traveled” (VMT) tax to finance costs of road construction and repair. The idea is to institute VMT to replace or augment the gasoline tax. But consider this rationale:

    “The current consumption-driven system is becoming outdated as the number of fuel-efficient cars is growing and expected to soar in the coming years. Because they travel farther on a gallon of gas, the drivers of these vehicles are, in effect, paying less than they once did, and that is limiting the government’s ability to maintain its transportation system.”

    I.e., fuel-efficient cars are generate less per-gallon tax revenues, so the government needs to find other ways to make them pay. That’s fair enough, although another solution would be to impose far stricter laws on fuel efficiency for all cars. Of course the oil industry has fought tooth and claw for decades. E.g., SUVs get by with terrible gas mileage because they get classified as trucks, which have less restrictive fuel efficiency requirements.

    Here’s another thing:

    “The shortfall could be addressed by raising the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gas tax by 6 cents, but neither the White House nor Congress is interested. Nothing new there: Despite numerous proposals to raise it, the gas tax hasn’t changed since 1993.”

    Across Western Europe the gasoline tax is closer to $3.50 per gallon. Even in Norway, which is the third-highest exporter of oil in the world, the gasoline tax is something like $5 per gallon.


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