Newsletter: doesn’t look like the robots will save us

You’ve probably got a well-meaning person in your life who has tried to convince you that electric cars and self-driving technology are the keys to our twin climate and transportation safety crises. You might share my skepticism of this kind of windshield optimism—I’m leery of solutions that don’t address the fundamentally destructive and inequitable nature of a transportation system that fosters car-dependence. Cars are expensive, big, heavy, and destructive. It takes a lot of money to own them, a lot of space to store them, a lot of energy to move them, and when they crash into things, it’s violent. That’s true no matter what energy source they use, and no matter whether it’s a person or a computer doing the driving. 

Some recent reporting has really brought the grim reality of this to light, so here are some links to share with that well-meaning person: preliminary data shows that Teslas in “self-driving” mode are ten times(!) more deadly per mile than cars being driven by humans. And a recent series in the Post details how electric car batteries rely on exploitative and environmentally destructive resource extraction. (Note: if you’re bumping into the Post’s paywall, you can read it for free through your public library: DCPL / MCPL / PGCMLS / Arlington / Alexandria / FFX. Libraries rule.) 

The bottom line is: we need more trains, more buses, and more bike lanes. Everything else is tinkering at the margins. 

Things to do this week:

A fun route idea for the weekend:

Have we talked about the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center yet? I don’t remember. Fields! Farms! Quiet(ish) roads! It’s a little wedge of biking paradise accessible by trail and by Metro! Beaver Dam Road is one of my favorite local scenic rollercoasters—here’s a photo I took a few years ago: 

For a long route, check out last year’s Cider Ride Route. For a shorter version, take the Green Line to Greenbelt and pick up the route at Proteus Bikes, Ride through the BARC, Wildlife Refuge, and Old Greenbelt, then end up back at the Cherry Hill Road entrance to the Greenbelt Metro. 

Have a great weekend!