White Flight and Bikes

In the last city I lived, Newcastle Australia, people talked for decades about cutting the train line into the city. Although it couldn’t be said in polite company, one of the reasons for some seeking the train line’s demise, is the train would often bring trouble. A jeweller I knew in the city didn’t mince words: they (the penniless) come in on the train only to steal. As stupid as that sounds from the thieves’ point of view, my jeweller friend had seen them succeeding more often than failing.

It was the car that made “white flight”, as Americans call it, an option for the gainfully employed back in the 60s. Living where the carless can’t go, thanks to no public transport and hills to stop bikes, creates a sense of security for car owners, from non-car owners. If you see it from their point of view, I guess it makes sense.

Personally, I’ve watched too many cult films exposing the dark side of New Jersey (remember Happiness?) to ever feel safe among scared folk. Nevertheless, they exist, they vote, they hold seats in government, and they bloody hate bikes. They would see the bike route I’m promoting in Launceston as an open invitation to BMX bandits from the low income flatlands on the East side of town, to come over to the West side and start stealing leaf blowers. They’ll never admit their real reason for not wanting bike infrastructure, just as my Jeweller friend would not broadcast to the world why he wanted the train line out of the city. What they will do, is white-ant, stonewall and block-vote. No wonder urban bike infrastructure comes to flat lands only after they have been gentrified.

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