Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tony the cyclist repeats the story of Detroit's Walking Man

A familiar looking story came out of Winter Storm Bella, but it wasn't one about blankets of snow covering the area, although that happened.  Instead, it was a near-repeat of James Robertson ABC's Person of the Week, the top post for the fourth year of the blog.  This time, it was a man cycling to his job in the suburbs instead of one walking there.  WXYZ tells the tale in Local man who bikes to work daily gets a new car thanks to the kindness of strangers.*

It's a story 7 Action News first brought you less than a week ago, a young man stopped to help a man riding his bike to work in the snow.
I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle for my response.  As I wrote on this blog, "I found this a heartwarming story of human persistence and empathy leading to a success of charity, but I also found it illustrated the failure of mass transit in metro Detroit, where more than half of the jobs are beyond the reach of public transit, including Robertson's."  Substitute Tony Berard's name for James Robertson's, and the story is exactly the same.

Follow over the jump for more of my reaction.

I elaborated my on take at Kunstler's blog.
While this was a success of charity, it displayed the failure of metro Detroit to provide adequate public transportation.  The response also sent a message that Americans think that car dependence is a virtue, not a vice.
Speaking of car dependence being considered a virtue instead of vice, note the following paragraph from MLive's Donors help cash-strapped bicycling Metro Detroit Meijer employee buy new car.  It includes a detail that the WXYZ report ommitted (emphasis mine).
[Jason] Kapoor, a sales and leasing consultant at Szott M-59 Chrysler Jeep in White Lake, says he and Berard struck up a conversation during which Berard revealed he cannot afford a car because most of his income is devoted to caring for his ill wife.
Kapoor did a good deed by helping someone to the best of his ability, but his act wasn't entirely charitiable.  After all, the photo shows that Berard bought the car at the dealership where Kapoor works.  It's in the auto industry's interest to maintain car dependence.

On the other hand, this was a win-win transaction, and I teach my students that win-win transactions in politics and business are desirable ways to achieve sustainability.  I should be sparing in my criticism when I see an example of it.  In fact, I should praise it.  So, congratulations Jason Kapoor; you did well while doing good.  In the meantime, I'll try to do good by advocating for expanded and improved public transportation here in Metro Detroit.

*The weather was terrible that day in White Lake.  The National Weather Service Detroit/Pontiac office is there.  The agency reported that it "measured 15.5" by the time the storm wrapped up which is the largest snowstorm the office has seen since it was built in 1994."  I wouldn't want to bike to work in that, either.

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