Perhaps it’s mere coincidence, but I found pregnant symbolism in the announcement that Jim Vesely, head of The Seattle Times editorial page, will retire on Bike to Work Day.
Vesely is no friend to cyclists. He opposed bike trail funding in Bellevue and, more infamously, championed an annual fee on cyclists in King County — just for riding a bike. And he took these anti-bike views with gusto, calling the Bellevue measure a “boondoggle” and stating that the fee “would also make cyclists true members of the world of transportation, rather than free riders on the tax rolls.”
I don’t know of any cyclist who does not pay a host of taxes. The vast majority own cars and houses and buy stuff in the city. You can’t do that be a “free rider” on the tax rolls. It should also be noted that taxes are a way to shape progress — tax smoking, for example, and give tax credits for things like green construction. If anything, cyclists should get a tax credit for reducing pollution, being healthier and putting less stress than cars and trucks on streets and highways.
But all of those points and many more were made eloquently in the firestorm of outrage that followed Vesely’s harebrained columns.
People said nice things about Vesely in the Times announcement, and it should be noted that personally Jim is a great guy. But with all the issues and challenges facing Seattle Times readers, why beat up on cyclists? Especially in a time when newspapers are financially under duress and seeking public dollars to continue publishing, it makes no sense to needlessly provoke a growing constituency of the Seattle-King County population and by extension, newspaper readership.
In our nation’s post-Obama evolution, the transportation equation is changing. So perhaps it’s fitting that Jim make his exit on the biggest day of celebration for cyclists. Have a great retirement, Jim, and hope to run into you (while riding my bike) enjoying your leisurely years on a bicycle!