Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mopac and 360 closed, man attempting suicide at the greenbelt

Yesterday, was a good day to be a cyclist.

A 22-year old man with a gun, threatening suicide, was spotted at 3 pm on the Barton Creek greenbelt in Austin by a witness who called 911, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The SWAT team converged on the site and shut down both lanes of Mopac near 360 to handle the situation. In turn, all of Austin's traffic ground to a halt. Cars backed up from Mopac/360, the bottom edge of Austin, to 2222, a near edge in the north. Perhaps you know, perhaps you were in it. The steaming metal beasts of cars trickled along Austin's major highways and side streets with no option of speed.
But the cyclists, they, reigned supreme.

I was in a car, heading southbound on Lamar home to Bouldin Creek. From work, at 2222, I heard traffic was a sludgy mess and tried to take side streets and Lamar instead. It barely worked.
Scanning the radio for news, I finally found a local sports show devoting some time to discussing the standoff between police and the suicidal young man. I can't say I was glad to hear their thoughts. Their traffic reporter though, had insightful, compassionate things to say. She hoped the situation would be resolved and the young man would emerge unscathed, seek the help he needs and heal. Her co-hosts, chuckled over her well wishes with phrases like "I hope he does succeed! I hope the dude offs himself now and let's us re-open the highway." and, "Man, if you're going to commit suicide can you at least do it at home so we don't have to deal with it?!" Perhaps the best, "This guy doesn't really want to do it, he doesn't really. He's bluffing. But you know there are people in this traffic who now want to kill themselves!"

My car still sluggishly moving forward, I stared out at all the bikes, scores of them, zipping along on thin silver wheels. Beautiful, glinting objects flying along the sidewalk at warp speeds compared to us. This was no planned Critical Mass, just a bunch of cyclists who were doing the right thing.

The cars we all sat in were tremendous burdens. Too big for us, to heavy for us to just pick up and move to the side to scoot home. Yes, they kept us cool. Yes, their air conditioning was a welcome respite from the 101 degree air outside. But their engines are only making the climate warmer. The CO2 created yesterday from the entire city of Austin performing a spontaneous, enormous, collective idling "happening" across the city must have numbered in the hundreds of pounds. CO2 emissions from idling are real, see this primer and you'll stop idling your car at the train tracks or to warm it up in the winter.

The cyclists whipped past us, getting to their destinations on time, and arriving having put their muscles, bones, bodies to work. They arrived happy, upbeat, with quickened pulses, alive. The drivers were exhausted, frenetically giving up on getting home any time soon, while the cyclists played on bouyant tires, zinging past us.

I am putting my car to rest. It's bikes and buses for me. I won't contribute to continued global warming and global climate change. This heat will only get worse if we don't all radically change. And it's time. If you can't figure out how to put your car to rest, post a comment here and we'll help you make it possible.