From–Green Development? Not in My (Liberal) Backyard

The other day I was lamenting to my husband that we could not bike to our dojo. We go to the dojo four or five times a week, and it’s only a half mile away, which would make it seem like an ideal candidate to be a car-free destination. However, that half mile passes through one of the most dangerous intersections in town, where a busy county road crosses a busy state highway. It is a snarl of turn lanes, concrete barriers, jug handle ramps, and driveways, and it is just lethal for pedestrians and cyclists–as a member of the town’s alternative transit steering committee, I have seen the stats on this intersection so I am not exaggerating when I say it is lethal.

I pointed out that this may change when the intersection is rebuilt to include a multi-purpose pedestrian/bike lane, so that someday in the foreseeable future we could bike to our classes. I was surprised by his reaction–that it won’t make a difference because so long as there was a single car on the road it would not be safe to bike.

It’s not that my husband has a problem with biking, or even bikes sharing the road with cars. He knows that biking is a great form of transportation that does not rely on fossil fuels for energy and helps promote health and fitness, but he is not used to thinking of biking as a viable option near our home. It’s okay for there to be bike lanes and heavy bike usage on Cape Cod, where bikes have been part of the local culture as long as I’ve been going there (31 years and counting), but it’s almost impossible for him to imagine bikes becoming a normal means of transportation in suburban New Jersey, where the car is King.

His gut reaction can be boiled down to a natural resistance to change in his environment, which it seems is a pretty common obstacle to making sustainable changes to a community. The New York Times has an article today which delves into this phenomena and search for the root of our eco-Nimbyism:

Green Development? Not in My (Liberal) Backyard –

It seems that change, even if it’s change for the better, it just plain hard to accept.

One thought on “From–Green Development? Not in My (Liberal) Backyard

  1. Great post! Just to explain my reaction a little further…I don’t have a NIMBY reaction to a bike lane. I think it would be great. I am just concerned for my safety, because we have an awful lot of knucklehead drivers in our area, and I worry that being an early adopter of a new bike lane would put be at a higher-than-usual risk of getting clipped by a motorist during that time when they are all adjusting to a new traffic pattern. Is that enough reason to not build the bike lane? Not at all. We desperately need one. I just hope that I don’t have to become a statistic as a result of it.

    I just looked back at what I wrote, and I see your point, Allison. Change, even for the good, can be awfully hard to accept. Perhaps I need to give my neighbors more benefit of the doubt.

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