Chicago, Aug 31 st 2013
As America celebrates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther’s speech “I have a dream” why not dream of another challenge: that America be green?
Another ride in America comes to its end. Maybe not as intense in terms of cycling as the Coast to Coast in 2013, but certainly very rich in observations, as we had time off the bike to visit museums and places, speak with friends and people, ride inside cities.
One of the most beautiful aspects of cycling is spending time with friends with whom you talk about life, family, philosophy, politics, all while enjoying a great day, observing and analyzing a country and a culture.
During these 6 weeks, we biked in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin. From this limited but significant sample it seems pretty obvious that America has dramatically improved the situation as regards biking and the environment.
This country has been plundered and devastated during the whole 19th century, and transformed from a pristine but unexploited nature into the richest country in the world. Indians, bisons, prairies, forest, swamps, were wiped out to become endless suburban grids, highways, plants, cities …and dump wastes.
Then came a President, Theodore Roosevelt, who first blew the whistle and said enough with massacring nature. From then on, nature became a national treasure, a limited resource to be protected and cherished. But until the late 70s, protection of the environment remained secondary to economic development.
Today America is amazingly nature friendly. For a foreign observer, it is striking to see how this country strives to balance modern comfort , meaning highways and cars, trains, electric wires, plants, fracking, oil factories, dump, etc..with the protection of nature, meaning parks, prairies, green forest, clean lakes and rivers. Seen from the saddle of a bike, America’s pledge to be a ” more perfect ” union applies to the environnment, as the country tries to improve the delicate balance between contradictory interests, ecology on one hand and industry on the other. In the 10 States visited, in big cities like Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, bike lanes are everywhere, streets are clean and tidy, traffic is slow and respectful. . Towns, counties, States put their money were their mouth is and make it possible for people to live differently, by building bike paths and lanes, extending public transportation, cleaning waters, adopting a “Blue Zone “way of life.
America is far from perfect, but what fascinates is its capacity and willingness to improve all the time in every field, to foster collective and individual dreams. This is what makes America a great country.