The final philosophy talk takes it to the streets

PhiloshophySliderThe final philosophy talk of the quarter was held last Tuesday, March 17. The discussion was led by Deric Gruen, the chair of campus sustainability and included Beau Morton, assistant secretary of the Transit Rider’s Union, and Harmony Shenk, a representative from the Bikery in Seattle. The three discussed their experiences with various grassroots movements in regards to biking and public transportation.

Morton described the organization of the TRU: “We’re a 501(c)(4), a partisan nonprofit. We can endorse candidates and initiatives. We very explicitly wanted to be political.” Members of the TRU pay monthly dues on a sliding scale of $1 to $20 based on income. Any dues-paying member can vote on initiatives and bring forward topics for discussion. After four months of internal debate on the matter, the TRU decided to support Proposition One in the upcoming special election in April, which would increase county sales tax by 0.1 percent and enact a $60 fee for car tabs.

According to the TRU’s website: “Due to irresponsible neglect on the part of the Washington State legislature, King County has no other realistic option for saving bus service. Although not an ideal solution, it is the only means for metro to obtain funding at the moment.” “You just sort of got to hold your nose and support [Prop One], and then fight for something much better at the state level,” said Morton. The cuts that Metro is considering to balance its $75,000,000 deficit would reduce service by 17 percent, deleting 74 routes, and altering 107 others. Changes would include rerouting the 271 and 245 through 148th Avenue, cutting off the loop through BC, as well as completely eliminating the 271 to Issaquah. “The problem with transit [is] once you get big cuts people get annoyed, it doesn’t come as frequently, they stop riding and then next time there are cuts coming up they don’t advocate for it. Then there are more cuts, then fewer people ride. It’s called the ‘Transit Death Spiral.’” TRU is proactively raising awareness of the proposition through outreach on buses and urges that everyone vote yes on Prop One come April.

Deric Gruen spoke of his experiences with “Critical Mass, a monthly bike ride that occurs in cities all over the world. There’s no leader, there’s no organizer, there’s no fixed route, there’s no definitive purpose. But the point is to demonstrate bicycles in a massive way, to occupy the street and show that bicycles are part of the community, are part of the road.” These groups of bikers often cause congestion and there have been numerous instances of violence by and against participants in these events. In regards to obstruction, Gruen stated that “in some instances, taking action that is not necessarily legal can be acceptable in order to demonstrate and bring awareness to their needs.” Gruen planted Critical Mass rides in Beirut in 2009. Although initially only eight riders participated (four of which were reporters), the group has grown to over 500 in recent years.

The Bikery in Seattle is described by Shenk as “everybody’s garage.” It exists “to make biking and mechanics more accessible.” Run by volunteers, the Bikery is a nonprofit. They sell donated bikes and parts at discounted prices, and train clients to make repairs to their bikes by themselves. Anyone can become a member of the Bikery and volunteer their time by simply observing others working in four three-hour shifts, attending meetings, and eventually being voted in by the current members.

Mark Storey, philosophy teacher and host of the previous philosophy talk, “The Moral Limits of Civil Disobedience”, described his ideal philosopher as “someone who thinks about things critically, and then actually stands up and gets something done.” These talks will continue next quarter and are the philosophy department’s way to showcase people interested in philosophy or are engaged in their life in some philosophical way.