This is Inequity
I often ride my bike to work. I try to do this on good weather days in the summer and start as early as I can in the spring (mid March) and late in the fall (Turkey-day). I am still not a winter rider as I am afraid of slick roads. I only ride about three miles each way, and it is a choice. I have that choice. I ride down Western Avenue in Albany past College of St. Rose and then alongside the park on State past the Empire State Plaza and the Capital to get to my work on Broadway. I have long been complaining about the road alongside the Capital, calling it the worse road in Albany. It is full of potholes and bad fill-ins, moguls, cracks and crevasses that can easily knock me right over into traffic if I am not paying attention.
The other day I rode my bike to a foot doctor, and then rode into work by heading to the river further south, and moving north into downtown via South Pearl through South Albany. It was a revelation. These roads are much worse than the little stretch I have to deal with by the capital. They are dangerously under maintained, and I expect the roads themselves are causing damage to cars, bikes, and even pedestrians every day.
And this is privilege in the face of inequity. I think I get it a little better now. We maintain the roads alongside the impressive colleges, by the park with the expensive brownstones, through the Downtown where the tax role is highest and where we want to entice restaurants to stay and where we want to impress visitors. And where government gathers. And in the place where few, comparatively, ride their bikes because they are well off enough to have cars, or even drivers.
But in South Albany, where many more people ride bikes out of necessity to just get around, the roads are ignored. There are no bike paths or sharrows. There is no massive bike plan for this area, maybe because people don’t show up for community meetings. If I were riding the edge of my control I wouldn’t get a sitter or take time from work to engage either. The potholes remain unfilled. And every flat tire is a struggle. And every pothole that damages the axle on a car or throws wheel alignment off creates an insurmountable challenge.
We, possibly inadvertently, keep those that are down, down.
What if we realized that providing equitable social support no matter the economic demographics of the area of town would mean that more people would have room enough, in their financial world, to breathe? Maybe even achieve? When I get a flat tire on my bike, I can bring it to the Downtube, or order a tube and take the time to fix it myself. I can drive to work, or take my Seqway, or take the bus. I have options, and I have ample flex in my time and my finances. When you have limited options, the one thing that keeps you solvent must be supported by local government investment.
It may even be that to create equity throughout Albany, we need to spend more on bike paths and maintained roadways and complete streets and public transportation in South Albany. And more than in other places in the city.
It’s not “leveling the playing field” so much as providing one to begin with.