Monday December 01, 2008
The Reductive Headlines of the Seattle P-I
The NY Times, though, is a piker compared to the Seattle P-I, which is increasingly fond of reductive “X or Y” headlines. Their latest from Saturday: BICYCLES OR WILDLIFE? Apparently you can't have both. At issue is the widening of the Burke-Gilman trail for safety reasons, from 8-10 feet to 12 feet. A last-minute argument against widening the trail is the effect this will have on salamanders and wetlands.
The headline is reductive because it's not just cyclists who use the Burke-Gilman, it's all of us. In fact, the primary battle isn't bicycles vs. wildlife, since most cyclists will continue to use the Burke-Gilman no matter what happens. The primary issue is: Safety vs. Wildlife. Or Safety vs. Salamanders. Or Safety vs. Shade. All are less divisive, and thus less jazzy, headlines.
But the P-I got the headline it wanted because cyclists are thought to be pro-environment, and yet, lookee here, when it suits their interests they don't care about the environment at all. If, in fact, that's the issue. And if the issue is looked at myopically.
Because you could say: Well, if the issue is quality-of-life, or safety, or wildlife on the Burke-Gilman, what are the alternatives to widening the path? Is there a way to relieve some of that traffic? And there is. Give bicyclists their own lane on most roadways. A lane with a concrete barrier so they feel safe. Of course that leads us back to the real debate, which is bicycles vs. automobiles. That's “vs.,” by the way, not “or.”
But that's if this last-minute argument against widening the trail should be taken seriously, and my gut tells me it shouldn't. It's just another argument for doing nothing, which is what Seattle is famous for.