Note: This post was written two days ago. I’m now in soggy Vancouver!
I’m back home in Canada for a visit, and at the moment I’m on a Greyhound bus between Kitchener and Toronto, watching miles of relentless suburbia speed by. Highway 401 parts an ocean of low-rise industrial warehouses and cheap residential housing. The homes are huddled close together, large and featureless save for double garage doors and cheap tile roofs repeating endlessly into the horizon. This landscape was beautiful once, covered in rolling farmland, small country villages, and forests sweeping up and over the ancient cliffs of the Niagara escarpment. Now the small pockets of scenery that are left stubbornly hang on without hope as a tsunami of development pounds over them.
Here and there, this littered sea of ugly housing gives way to vast islands of retail escape destinations — big box stores and malls surrounded by thousands and thousands of cars. I recall the awesome variety of products inside those walls, and compare it with the tiny stores in Munich with their equally tiny selections.
Then I had a curious thought.
The landscape outside my window would look very, very different if people had to rely on a bicycle for transportation, the way I do back in Germany. I can just picture Canada’s suburban inhabitants pedalling madly through interminable streets to reach their shopping destinations, and imagine the dismay on their faces when they realize that every one of their purchases has to be hauled home on the back of a bike. For one thing, any appeal shopping in a big box store or mall might now hold would certainly disappear, as would the perceived value of sorting through 20 different brands of whatever after a stenuous and exhausting ride. I have no doubt the masses would find, as I have in Munich, something better to do.
I look out the window again, and my smile disappears. So much good land. Wasted.