Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Representative Democracy in New Hampshire

Heavy traffic? Build a bigger road!
Not New Hampshire. Yet.
Crescent Trail, Washington, DC. Notice what is not here.

Something about obtuseness is just mesmerizing. You keep thinking: If only I could explain this concept adequately to this person, he could see the light.  I just need to find the right words, the right images.

But, in fact, that's not the way it is. The willfully blind cannot see because they do not want to see.  

If you know about roads for automobiles and you like these things, then you do not like alternatives to these things. 

Now, consider converting an old railroad bed to a paved bicycle path, which will run through several towns, all the way from Hampton to Portsmouth. What will your mind conjure up? 

Let's take a fling:  How can we make this into something we already know?  A road!  A motor way, an autobahn.  Roads are good! Build a road and commerce will flourish. Build a road and you will reduce crowding on the road which runs parallel to it, because, you know, there are only a finite number of cars, and so this number will now be distributed over a larger asphalt surface and the concentration of cars will fall.   It doesn't matter that study after study shows trying to relieve traffic congestion by building more roads is only a way to create more traffic congestion,  on the new roads. If you build it, they will come. More cars arrive to  fill whatever asphalt surface you provide.

If you have never seen a successful rails to trails, all you can think of when you think of a bicycle path is a yellow line painted on the margin of a highway. 

Such is the frustration of thinking people like Chris Muns, who want to try something which would be new for New Hampshire, although it has been done successfully in many other states across the nation:  A paved bicycle path in a heavily populated, highly developed part of the state.  

There is an unpaved bicycle path from Newmarket to Manchester, but this is far from any significant locus of development and population.  What Muns is talking about would run right through the heart of Hampton, North Hampton, Rye and on into Portsmouth and it might transform life in these towns by providing an area where people might actually--imagine this--Walk!   

Walk without cars whizzing within ten inches of you.  Hampton has a few sidewalks, but for the most part these towns have little or no provision for foot travel. Walking a dog along the road,  crossing a street,  these are not what life in the Seacoast is built for. In these parts, you need a car to fetch a quart of milk. Even the sidewalk along Route 27 into Hampton offers no respite--you can walk along it, but you can barely speak with a companion,  the roar of cars and motorcycles is so deafening. 

The predicament of the New Hampshire pedestrian is like that of the kitten living in a house where they don't much like cats. 

But we could change all that, if only we can get  people like Fred Rice could to  throw open a window to their  minds and see the possibilities of a corridor safe from motorized vehicles, protected from the smell of gasoline and the roar of the engines. 

  But that brings us back to the problem: How do you get a man to see, who likes living in the darkness?


  1. Mad Dog,
    I googled Crescent Trail to see how long it took to complete from the time the land was purchased but didn't find the answer..hopefully the local project won't take a decade to complete. As for Fred Rice, I see another candidate ripe for a brain transplant...

  2. Maud,

    Good question. The Crescent Trail was completed in stages, as land was acquired. Same thing could happen here. The track, I am told comes from Boston to Portsmouth. So, it is possible one could bike from Portsmouth to somewhere in or near Boston, by bicycle. I'm told the Seabrook power plant might object to those dangerous bicyclers as a terrorist security risk.

    I have urged Chris Muns to organize a walk from Hampton to Portsmouth along the track, hopefully joined by enthusiastic citizens along the way. Gandhi's march to the sea for the salt tax protest. Justice Douglas's hike along the canal. Get enough newspaper coverage and local folks marching with you and it's a marketer's dream.

    See you on the track. I'll be holding the sign: Portsmouth or Bust! Or maybe Mad Dogs for Foot Traffic. Or...I'm still working on that sign.

    Mad Dog