Don't Be Anti Car. Be Pro Something Else.

People hate change. They have something of a tendency to dig their heels in and be against it just because it is new and different.

They associate change with loss, not gain. So when you advocate for change, people tend to see you as attacking them, their way of life and everything they cherish and this leads to a lot of gatekeeping where people try to "kill it with fire" before it can get any traction.

So what makes for a trend? How does something become "The hot new thing"?


Yeah, I heard he got that hot new thing

I think if you do something new and different that somehow doesn't set off alarm bells, it becomes the hot new thing. If people don't immediately greet it with that "We must kill it with fire!" knee-jerk reaction, then it spreads fairly rapidly because it's new, it's different, it's exciting and it's somehow miraculously acceptable anyway.

I think you can actively try to become the hot new thing in part by working on being inoffensive. Ideally, that's rooted in actually respecting people and their boundaries.

If you are looking to advocate for change and community development, you can take lessons from past projects that were actually successful. From How to argue..., here are some lessons learned from a successful housing project translated into how to do the same thing transportation-wise:
  • Don't attack cars. Attack lack of transit choice.
  • Don't be anti car. Be pro something else.
  • Don't use terms that could be misconstrued. Get very specific about what you want developed.
  • Don't attack cars. Decry the many accidents we have because, for example, teens and seniors both have high rates of accidents due to a lack of transportation choice. Surely, these unsafe drivers would do the right thing and stop killing people on the road if they had another way to get there!
  • Don't make it a moral argument that frames drivers as sinners and pedestrians, cyclists, etc as The Good Guys.
  • Don't make it sound absolutist, as if abolishing cars is the ultimate goal. You just want more other options. You don't want to hunt down every car driving motherf*cker and exterminate them like The Punisher of transitland.
So far, that's kind of all "theory." Now I am trying to put it into practice with Project Bike Rack.

At this point, the goal is simply to catalog existing bike racks and "bike rack wanted" sites in and near the downtown area of the small town I live in. I am also inviting people throughout the Coastal Washington region to participate with posting photos and location information for bike racks and "bike rack wanted" sites throughout the "thumb" of the mitten-shape of the state.

I'm not sure how I will promote it. That will take some research.

The good news is that r/CoastalWa already has 41 members though I rarely post anything there. My best guess is that it's grown that large in spite of months of mostly neglect because of the well-written Welcome message explaining why I created the sub.

I will personally be cataloging bike racks and "bike rack wanted" sites in and around the downtown of my town. That part is something I can do myself, though it will take time.

But the project won't grow beyond my town if I can't attract other participants. That means there are two parts to this project and it may end up being only a partial success. It may only do something for my town and not for the region.

Of course, to actually be successful this project needs to somehow lead to more bike racks being installed in public spaces, ideally very near businesses. Cataloging existing bike racks and "bike rack wanted" sites is of limited value if it doesn't foster the proliferation of more bike racks.

This is step one. I am already working on doing additional research and note-taking to figure out how to go from gathering data to encouraging businesses to buy and install a bike rack.

Maybe just letting businesses know this is something people want will cause some businesses to go "That's a great idea!" and run right out and buy a bike rack. Or maybe it will take more work than that.

Time will tell. At the moment, I am just excited to have a concrete project to work on after nearly four years of attending public meetings, doing research into local needs and so forth.

I think it's a solid idea and likely will have legs. It's also a project that you could borrow ideas from to promote cycling by promoting cycling infrastructure where you live, if you so desire.

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