Nicholas Scott, Ph.D.

mobilities, environments, social movements, cities


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Wreckless Vehicular Violence: An Ode to Beautiful Objects

“Look at that taco. Somebody’s gonna pay for that,” said the calmly incensed bike mechanic, before I uttered a word.

Tacos, it turns out, is what bicycle wheels look like after they collide with considerable velocity into things, like the jeep that hit me on Wednesday at speed, when a young, reckless driver jettisoned from a Harvey’s parking lot, with a mouthful of burger bits shooting in all directions like the famous fireworks at Windsor-Detroit’s International Freedom Festival. Or at least like those liberated burger bits probably did.

Mine wasn’t the only sad looking taco this Windsor bike mechanic laid eyes on in recent weeks.

The jeep driver, for an apology, said again and again he was wreckless. Since he was 16, he hadn’t wrecked any car. However, motorists (like cyclists) are always wreckless until they’re not, and it doesn’t mean much about the quality of their driving, just like if a good baseball player gets stuck in a longer and longer drought, the drought doesn’t magically increase the probability he’ll hit a home run next time he’s at bat. All I was left with was the wreckage.

My bicycle was important to me. It was a living artifact, or an actor, or something dynamic and multifarious that was constantly insinuating itself in fantastic situations. Now it’s a scrap heap, a sunk ship, an archival thing. A catalogue of previous relationships that used to be meaningful.

This whole thing confirms for me that you can’t separate emotions from objects. I’ll remember my bike as an Ottawa-born iconoclast. My next bike’s going to come from Detroit.


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Cycling in Windsor

I moved to Windsor three months ago, and I’m finally going to start writing about urban cycling in Windsor, the dying heart of Canada’s car industry, a.k.a. South Detroit. My research is about cycling, and urban bicycle travel, I strongly believe, is a way for humanity to actually get to a sustainable future.

South of Detroit, urban cycling, anyone will tell you, is shit in Windsor. Car culture and car industry (the system of automobility) run deeper here than elsewhere. For example, as far as I can see, a majority of  people ride on the sidewalk. Biking dangerously in the opposite direction of traffic is disturbingly common.

Yet, city cycling (defined as biking for work, school, groceries, social engagement, cricket, beers store runs, etc.) seems like it could explode in Windsor. The city government thinks so; it just announced it will throw 5 million dollars at cycling. Windsor is as flat as the 401, and really warm by Canadian standards.

Windsor is also down on its luck, especially since GM left.

Lucky for Windsor, cycling is a cheap date.