I love cycling, so why am I not doing it?

The only time I’ve ridden one of my three bikes in the last year was going to get my booster jab in mid December. Why? What’s wrong with me? Why would I have 3 bikes and not ride any of them? It sounds odd, but really I think it comes down to a mix of reasons that have just worn me down to where I’m at now.

Before covid, I was doing a relatively long ride once a week or so on a Monday or Tuesday. At that point I was working part time, and having those two extra days off a week was crucial to my mental health. It made working a pretty miserable, low paid job a lot more tolerable. But over time I was becoming more and more frustrated and disillusioned by the lack of car-light route options. Knowing that there was one somewhat enjoyable route to a location; and that taking any wrong turn would lead to stressful, fast moving traffic and the general feeling of being a second class citizen sucked so much of the fun out of these longer rides.

This wasn’t the first time I was feeling like this. I’ve had a couple of long breaks from cycling over the years. The first one was from about age 18 to 23, and then from 27 to 30. The first time was due to generalised anxiety disorder, and then the second 3 year gap was when I started a new job and I felt that I couldn’t cycle the 5 miles there because it wasn’t cycle friendly. I got a scooter for two years and then a car after that. Which brings me back to where I started doing those longer rides.

Looking back now on when my anxiety was the most incapacitating, I wonder how much of that time was attributable to what I now know about our unsustainable economic system, as well as that trapped feeling I had as a cyclist. Maybe subconsciously that played a big role in me feeling the way I did, but I couldn’t articulate it at the time. Maybe I knew that this society wasn’t made for people like me. When it came to the decision to buy a scooter and later drive a car, I was definitely very aware by that point that people like me who wanted empty roads and everyone cycling weren’t welcome here. Electric cars made me feel as if I wasn’t succumbing to society’s demand to drive, and that I was doing it on my terms. But I really wasn’t. I think it’s pretty clear that had I been living in a more accepting society rather than a closed minded one, I probably would have kept cycling all the way from childhood to now with no breaks. And my anxiety would have most likely been a lot more manageable too.

When covid came along, I felt a kind of relief at being locked down for months from April to June 2020 and being restricted to 30 minutes of exercise per day. It meant that I only had time to go from home to the seafront and back again to stay within the time limit. There was one route that allowed me to make it down there almost car free. It also allowed me to avoid the majority of pedestrians and other cyclists in addition to the few cars that were still driving around.

I continued in that pattern for a few months, occasionally trying some other local routes while the traffic levels were so low. When the full lockdown was prematurely eased, I went back to just riding that one route to the seafront. It became gradually less fun. The couple of busy roads I had to cross filled up again and took ages to cross, the noise returned, but it was still by far the best route to ride. I decided I wouldn’t go back to doing any long rides again until after the pandemic.

Then, the temporary covid bike lanes appeared in August and officially opened at the beginning of September, months after the full lockdown had ended. I decided to ride on those instead and change up my route. At first it was a novelty to have a whole car lane to myself going into town, but it wore off when I thought about how polluted it was with so many cars right next to me. I stopped using it even before it was removed at the end of November (just three months after being installed).

By that point, I had stopped riding long distances, seen drivers become more and more dangerous and anti-bike, experienced a (albeit fleeting and poorly executed) glimpse of what being given permanent dedicated space for cycling might feel like; and seen us return to business as usual while covid was still far from over. I started riding at night instead, but I couldn’t keep that up very long. I retreated from society even further and stopped leaving the house entirely.

Covid got worse and worse. All restrictions ended. The government became more and more openly absurd and anti-science. Scandal after scandal and yet they remained untouchable. No one in the mainstream challenged the anti-science stance that had seeped into the public psyche. Scientists who were doing that (such as Dr Deepti Gurdasani and others) were increasingly ignored and no longer able to get on major TV or radio. And that pretty much leads us to today. I still don’t want to go anywhere. I still don’t feel safe anywhere in public covid wise. I still have no intention of taking public transport anywhere.

Every day I just have this ridiculous hope that maybe soon we will come to our senses as a society and force the end of car ownership, so we can have empty streets to ride again. In my mind, getting rid of cars has become the symbol of when our insanity stops as a species. But it doesn’t feel like anything is going to change any time soon. Only the climate crisis or another deadly Delta-like covid variant have the potential to interrupt business as usual and maybe lead to lasting change to the benefit of cycling (and everything / everyone else sane left in this world). It doesn’t seem as if the current cost of living crisis is going to be enough to force any real change. People will just put up with it quietly, like the obedient little pawns in the economic game they are.

So I guess if I have to sum up why I’m not cycling, it comes down to lack of quiet bike routes, cars, psycho drivers, endless covid mishandling / corruption / stupidity, lack of infrastructure and my depression at the endless stupidity of our broken economic system. I think that covers it.

The cases are going down gradually at the moment according to the ONS / Zoe Covid Study, but they’re still remaining stubbornly very high compared to previous waves of the pandemic. Universal masking is a distant memory at this point, and the booster must be wearing off significantly by now.

I’m hoping that by the summer, things will have shifted significantly in a positive direction, and I’ll hopefully head back out on the bike again. I’m curious to know if I’m the only one who feels this way. There must be others out there who just feel so beaten down by all this shit.

Everything we’re doing now will have to be undone

Look at pretty much any part of society right now, and you’ll notice that it’s still going in the opposite direction of how we need to be going to have any kind of sustainable future. Housing, energy, roads, airports, (lack of) bike infrastructure, railways, politics. You name it, we’re going backwards in it.

These are all massive aspects in a society, and mistakes (to be polite) that can’t be quickly remedied. This is problematic when we’re in a rapidly accelerating climate emergency; and it’s why we need to get over the sunk cost fallacy and pull the plug on these projects before it’s too late.

It takes a long time to build nuclear power plants, or high speed rail, or millions of homes that are too big, unsustainably built and car-dependant. And then when you’re finished destroying our precious remaining “wild areas” building them, we’re left with an undesirable outcome that will take even more time and effort to fix, if it’s even possible. In some cases it won’t be.

I’ve laid out my plan of emergency measures to immediately implement, but before we can do that, we have to cut off all of these projects that are going in the opposite direction. We CAN just stop these things halfway through. You don’t have to complete these insane projects just because you’ve spent a lot of money already. Watch the mainstream media and you’ll be told that rapid change is just not possible. It’s not possible politically, socially, in terms of our infrastructure, our energy mix. But it’s not remotely true. We have to admit that everything we’re doing is wrong. The system which economists and mainstream media tell us is fantastic, is anything but. It’s pure lunacy.

It’s like an alcoholic going to an AA meeting and admitting their problem. You can’t tackle alcoholism unless you admit it first. The same applies to the global economic system. We’re addicted to this economic system, even though it makes the vast majority of us stressed and unhappy. This system of endless growth taught us that we can all have everything we could ever want; all the mega-projects you could imagine, and there would never be any environmental or social consequences for any of it. The rich could get ever richer and the poor could get ever poorer, and that’s ok. Not only that, but the thought of taking some of the rich people’s money and giving it to the poor, or to make society better for everyone is considered unthinkable in this society. It amazes me that we’ve got to this point, and it feels like just a relative handful of us even notice.

Imagine if in the NBA Draft, the championship winning team got the first pick every year. That’s what this global economic system is.

And when it comes to what we are supposedly doing about the climate crisis within this system, the main thing is lying to ourselves. Recently I got to the point where I was starting to find it funny to see the stupidity of people talking about green growth, EVs, renewable energy, as well as the ridiculous people still talking about new fossil fuels in the North Sea for example. But on Earth Day I felt really pissed off again, specifically by Joe Biden making his token environmental speech seemingly once a year to say how seriously he’s taking it, and how he’s going to count old trees and then somehow protect them.

We have to wake up now. And the first stage of that is to end the bullshit multi-decade mega-projects which are so symbolic of this ridiculous system we’re forced to live under. Only then can we think about what we need to do here and now. Once we’ve stopped speeding in the wrong direction, and we’re living in the present, we can think about what comes next. Because right now, change feels impossible when all you hear is politicians and the BBC talking about what capitalism already has set in stone for 20 years from now. It doesn’t matter what’s happening to the climate, until the penny finally drops, whenever that’s going to be. They do it on purpose. To entrench neoliberal capitalism as far into the future as they can. Make it so that the general public can’t see any alternative. It’s worked for them. It’s why covid is still going on. People feel like no matter what, they must go to work to earn enough money to just about stay in the black, if they’re lucky. They have no time to stop and think about why they’re doing it. Even having months at home during the original lockdown was not enough to shift people’s mindsets in most cases. They still feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses and buy that new SUV, and that bigger house. And they justify it to themselves because the media tell them about those car factory and construction jobs that are so crucial to GDP.

We have to leave behind long term mega-projects for short term profits, and embrace short term action for long term survivability of our species and the rest of life on Earth. Otherwise we’ve had it. Every day is crucial at this point, and we’re wasting one after another talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Prince Harry and the Queen. Will Smith and Chris Rock. Do we really want to lose everything while being distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter in the slightest?

What I would do tomorrow if I was in charge

After the last post where I talked about how much it feels like what we’re doing now is leading us straight to extinction; I thought I would indulge myself and come up with a list of things I would do immediately if I was in charge of the country (and assuming every other country was led by someone with exactly the same ideals). In the process show any doubters that I am in fact positive about the future. Just one where we make massive changes; rather than one where we waste precious time tinkering around the edges of our disastrous current system.

Rather than write a lot about each policy idea, I just want to simply lay out the basics of my plan, and perhaps go into more detail in future. Especially on topics I haven’t previously covered.

  • End capitalism
  • Nationalise all essential industries, and shut down all businesses that don’t bring a clear benefit to society.
  • Bring in a universal income so work is optional and only for the benefit of society as a whole; not for individual gain.
  • Ban all new and begin rapid phaseout of existing fossil fuel infrastructure
  • Implement the MEER Reflection Framework, Marine Cloud Brightening, Ocean Pasture Restoration, and other Geoengineering / solar radiation management techniques.
  • Tax the rich 99% (everyone lives the same way)
  • Ban all unsustainable building materials
  • Ban private cars for everyone except for those who couldn’t live without one today (disabled etc). Begin rapid phaseout of diesel taxis and the small number of private cars that will remain in favour of EVs.
  • End deforestation and give back vast areas of grazing land to nature.
  • Ban all cryptocurrencies, mining, NFTs etc.
  • Ban pesticides
  • Ban meat production
  • Ban all new road, airport, port, and other developments intended to increase trade and GDP.
  • Ban all new single family homes, luxury apartments and mansions, and begin the process of converting existing large homes into many tiny apartments or buildings for other societal purposes.
  • Ban landlords
  • Begin rapid phaseout of fossil fuelled vans, trucks etc. Aim to replace most vans with cargo bikes. Demand for vans and trucks will drop due to massively reduced consumption levels.
  • Ban private jets, super-yachts and all other privately owned luxury transport.
  • Ban second homes
  • Severely restrict flying. Mandate that people may only take one return flight per year, regardless of wealth. Only holidays, visiting family, moving overseas permitted. Business travel by air banned.
  • Mandate that ground transport must be used for all trips where the destination can be reached within about 24-36 hours. Air travel only when absolutely essential.
  • Immediately invest massively in public transport, bicycle parking, and begin the phaseout of diesel buses, coaches, trains.
  • Immediately begin phasing out plastic and mandating the use of reusable containers and schemes to return them to shops for reuse.

I could probably go on endlessly listing more and more things, but I think this covers a lot of bases. Imagine a real politician coming in day one and doing all of this. It would be incredible compared to everything we’re used to. But we shouldn’t forget that what I’m talking about here isn’t some crazy nonsense. What politicians do right now is pure insanity. What I’m proposing is entirely logical and urgently necessary. The people talking about net zero 2050 are the crazy ones.

It feels like we’re heading for extinction

Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, the Metaverse, right wing authoritarian governments, unending talk about GDP growth, and a global population seemingly getting stupider and more unhinged by the day. Even if we can reverse course from here to create a better future; you can’t deny that what we’re seeing right now looks like the demise of the human race.

It seems like everywhere you look, you’ll struggle to find anyone speaking much common sense about Covid-19, about ending pollution, about making a fair society. It’s a massive shock when you do hear someone speaking logically. I feel like I must follow them on Twitter. There aren’t that many of us now so we have to band together. That’s perhaps overstating it a bit, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s how it goes considering the trajectory we’re on.

The thing I don’t understand is that not only are we not making a dent into the environmental and societal crises we have chosen to get ourselves into, but we’re actively going backwards in almost every respect. Things like NFTs are so bonkers that it’s hard to even comprehend. People pay huge amounts of money to “own” a picture or video of a real item, when those things are both widely available online for everyone. There’s no value whatsoever in these things, and it uses giant quantities of electricity to complete transactions. It makes absolutely no sense.

And then there’s the Metaverse. It’s basically a VR world where people can meet and have avatars, virtual homes and possessions etc. It’s like Cybertown meets Second Life, PlayStation Home and presumably countless other similar ideas, except with VR headsets and higher resolution virtual homes and furniture.

It feels like Mark Zuckerberg is reaching his ultimate form. People have always talked about how nefarious he might be or at the very least mocked his awkward nature. But now it really feels like he’s embracing it by going with the Meta brand and Metaverse concept; even if it’ll most likely be about as successful as 3D TV.

When I think about it, I just imagine the scene in the film Wall-E where the obese people on the space ship are sitting there in VR. Why would anyone want something like that? I can see some good uses for VR, but the particular desire to have a whole separate existence just seems unnecessary and dystopian. We need to stop this madness and just focus on what VR is actually good at. Allowing us to do and experience things that we can’t in real life, not trying to replace real life.

We have to focus as much as possible on our real world in order to want to save it. Video Games are one thing, which in moderation are great. The Metaverse is something totally different, that I have a hard time believing has anything beneficial to offer society. It’s the type of thing you create when you’re out of ideas for things that really help society. When Facebook started, you could make a pretty good case that it made a positive impact on society. Who can say that now? How many of us still use FB as it was originally intended? To keep up with friends and make communities around common interests? I do, but it mostly seems to be just a breeding ground for far-right views and misinformation. Even though I do use it for a couple of good reasons, I wouldn’t miss it if it was gone, and I doubt many others would either. And that just shows how badly it’s been developed over the years.

But it’s not just these particular dystopian trends. It’s everything in society that needs to change. We need to immediately stop all of this nonsense and reverse course before we set off all of the cascading feedback loops in the climate system.

I really don’t know how, but all these products and concepts have to end, and soon. We have to start thinking about what really matters to us. Is it the ridiculous gadgets and gimmicky services? The endless pursuit of economic growth when we all feel miserable? Or is it the wonder of nature, the simple pleasure of a bike ride, relaxing and enjoying the slow life? If we’re going to avoid extinction, it’s crucial that we stop this trend of doing the worst possible things at the worst possible time. We need to wake up fast and reassess everything we’re doing, because the vast majority of it is the opposite of what we should be doing.