Make bike paths, not rail systems

By Isaac Himmelman


Alright, now before everyone goes squawking away about all the benefits of the Obama high-speed dream rail system allow me to anticipate the arguments in favor of the proposed rail and proceed to slam each one to the dirt with my obnoxious witticisms.

Proponents say, it’ll pour money into the economy. I say, it sure as hell better with the amount of scrilla it’s proposing to drain from it. Last I checked our economy has been drained plenty over the past few years having been sucked dry from our friendly neighborhood too-big-to-fail corporations.

Others point to all the theoretical environmental benefits of the proposed high-speed rail system.

Listen hippies, I don’t know what you’ve heard, but no one – not even good ‘ol Amtrak Joe Biden – is saying this high-speed rail system is going to be running on some kind of magical earth-friendly biofuel. Furthermore, let’s all take a moment to fathom the enormous carbon footprint 20-plus years of high-speed rail construction is going to leave on our already fragile environment. Moment taken? Good.

But Isaac, China has one.

China has one? Is that supposed to be some kind of selling point? China has a Great Wall; maybe we should get one of those. And while we’re at it, America, maybe we should start capping the amount of kids we let our citizens have, because hey, China does that too. It seems to me that we as a country need to do some national soul searching and come to terms with our weird infatuation with China. It’s like we’re a bunch of competitive private school girls. We are not in competition with China. That place is a bubble ready to burst. Just wait until that one-child policy comes back to bite the Chinese national behind. You’ll have a population of sexually frustrated men, no children, no future and a sweet high-speed rail system. I’m over it.

Finally America, let’s be honest, the last thing we need is more high-speed things. The world we live in – 3G networks, Internet access in our pockets – is high speed enough. We’re going to high-speed ourselves into oblivion. Obama proposing we pour billions of taxpayer dollars into a high-speed rail system is like trying to get rid of a population of squirrels by opening a squirm farm. America has enough squirrels, which is to say, we have enough high-speed stuff.

What we as a country really need is a way to slow things down. We’re wired in 24/7, checking Facebook walls, watching our favorite pundits jabber on a mile-a-minute, drinking so much caffeine we practically cry tears of pure Monster Energy Drink; we seldom take time out of our lives to take in the beauty and joys of simple existence. A high-speed rail system will get us places faster.

But so what? Is life about making sure we get places really fast? The beauty of rail travel has always been that it gives you time to sit, to wonder, to read a book.

Now if Obama feels we’ve got billions to spend and manpower ready to work, I propose this: bike paths. First, start building them in our cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston. And then once that’s sorted out we move onto phase two: trans-continental bike paths. All our cities should be linked up through well-paved well-kept bike paths. This would provide plenty of jobs seeing as it takes a lot of man (and woman) power to build bike paths, and nothing is more environmentally friendly then riding a bike. Furthermore, high-speed rail doesn’t eliminate car travel. Once you get off the train you still need to take a car to wherever it is your going. Riding a bike, you don’t have this problem. You can ride your bike right to your intended destination.

In conjunction with the trans-continental bike paths, the Obama administration should dive full-force into a national campaign informing citizens of the tried and true health benefits of biking because along with our country’s economic problems (which history has shown, we can overcome) we have an alarming and rapidly increasing obesity problem. High-speed rail does nothing to address the fact that while America is getting faster she’s also getting a whole lot fatter. In fact, the proposed high-speed rail system would merely enable the average American’s sedentary existence. Trans-continental bike paths would help our economy while at the same time encouraging a fit and active lifestyle where people can enjoy the fresh air of the great American outdoors at any pace they please.

Isaac Himmelman is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]