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Leading the Herd

Editor,

I may be one of the serial letter writers to whom Sandi Cain refers (“Stepping on the Soapbox for Sidewalks,” Letters, Sept. 30). Her points are well taken. We non-car users do whine a lot.

 

Regarding the issue of cyclists not paying their way: most cyclists also own cars so they are paying for road infrastructure. There are many of us who would gladly pay an annual bicycle license fee in order to finance more bicycle-friendly infrastructure and this is frequently talked about.

 

The remark about “how I can hardly wait to grocery shop by trolley” is interesting. This is a result of a car-oriented mind-set. Many people, and I’m one, are perfectly able to meet their shopping needs without loading up a car trunk. You just shop closer and more frequently.

 

We might compare ourselves with Boulder. The city council there made a concerted effort to reduce private car traffic by significantly beefing up the transit system with subsidies. Now, white middle-class people use the buses, instead of just minorities like here in OC, and business meetings are scheduled around bus arrival times.

 

Amsterdam is another example. They drove as many cars as anyone else in the 1970s, but the city made an effort to change behavior, and now over 50 percent of journeys in Amsterdam are made by bike. And 25 percent of these journeys are made by those over 65. The comparable figure in this country is 0.1%. There are many retired and seniors in this town who could meet their needs just fine without a car, as I do (I’m 62).

 

Constantly driving long distances alone to work is clearly an issue, but with some effort many people find they can carpool without any serious inconvenience.

 

It’s really a matter of attitude. I try to avoid using a car for any purpose and I take personal pride in being able to get around without one. I make far more trips to L.A. than anyone I know. They’re always complaining about the traffic, but I just take the train.

 

The only reason most people drive cars around here is because most people drive cars.  If a larger percentage of people took the bus and rode bicycles, then the others will follow. Most people don’t want to be in a minority. So be the change you want to see in others. Lead the herd, and the remainder will follow.

 

Charles Alban, Laguna Beach

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