By Teka Lark (January 31, 2018)
When I first started in alt transit advocacy it was 2006, I saw Inconvenient Truth at the Santa Monica Pier and was convinced I alone was killing the planet. So I sold my Mini Cooper S and quit my job to start my art project: ShameTrame LA. It was a conceptual project that was actually supposed to be fun. I thought this would be great. I would be helping the earth and at the same time have a cool art project to promote me.
But you know what happened? It wasn’t fun. I saw a part of Los Angeles I never saw before, the poor part, the economically oppressed part. I saw the police harassing people for existing. I waited for hours with people who worked in retail, cleaned houses, and took care of rich people’s kids at bus stops for busses that never came. I almost was murdered daily on my bike.
I changed the name of the project from ShameTrain LA to The Bus Bench, because I wanted to be respectful to the LA that existed, but my middle class upbringing shielded me from.
Fast forward, I’m in New Jersey, and again, I think I’m going to create a project that pushes forward the environment and complete streets and bicycles. I think this will be fun, but then I run into “we can’t have a bike lanes, because of Black people” and “we can’t have open streets, because we’re too close to Newark, and you know, Black people.”
I read through urban plans that could be complete streets, pedestrian friendly, and inclusive of bicycles, but they aren’t, because RACISM takes precedent over safety, health, comfort, and the environment.
I seriously don’t get this. I get it, but I don’t get it. People will let their hate for Black people kill them and the planet. People will Trump the possibility for a good life that harkens back to a path that we have so much nostalgia of. The future is not going to be Disney’s Tomorrow Land with everyone in their own private vehicle; that just leads to Blade Runner.
What is wrong people?
And you know what is weird, if I hadn’t wanted to ride my bicycle up Sunset Blvd., I would have never known any of this. I would have just been in my car, looking for valet, thinking about the best place to get mimosas….