The National Journal asked last week "Should bikes and cars be treated equally?" in response to Sec. Transportation's Ray LaHood's announcement that they would. There are many comments in favor of the policy - most of which you've heard before if you read the blog. So let's focus on the criticism.
Greg Cohen, President and CEO, American Highway Users Alliance, writes that, according to polling, most people think the Federal government should lead in building highways but that local governments should lead in building bike paths. In fact his whole argument against the policy is based on what is popular based on polling. That's not an argument for leadership.
Bill Graves, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations argues that spending money on biking diverts it from the safe and efficient movement of goods [Hate to tell you Bill, but if you want to move goods safely and efficiently, what you want is a train, not a truck. So money spent on highways diverts it from the safe and efficient movement of goods]. But his is a myopic argument that ignores the fact that moving goods is only part of the purpose of roads. They also need to move people. He also says "“treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe” to which Andy Clarke, President of LAB responds.
My recollection of significant recent economic crises is that they are invariably caused by our predilection for foreign oil - the 1973/74 oil embargo; 1988 oil crisis; 2008 gas price increases quickly followed by the mortgage and foreclosure crisis that piled unsustainable housing costs on top of budget-busting suburban commuting costs. In terms of economic competitiveness, I would suggest that the crippling - and rapidly rising - health care costs associated with physical inactivity and obesity among the US workforce is a crisis worth worrying about.
Bob Poole of the Reason Foundation argues not so much against treating bikes equally, but against the federal government doing anything other than the Interstate Highway System. Everything else is local. Which is kind of a punt.
Finally, D.J. Hughes, P.E, starts out echoing the reasonable point that many made that not every road needs bike facilities and that it is more important in the cities, but then the wheels come off. He states the old canards that biking is a overwhelmingly a recreational activity - but then asks for the statistics (About 52% of rides are recreational, 43% are transportational and there are 5% that are just "other"), that bike commuting isn't practical for most people and that people can't grocery shop by bike. And he's glad there are no sidewalks in his neighborhood because they would take up too much space. So he's wrong about why people ride, he's obviously wrong that you can't go grocery shopping with a bike, and - if Amsterdam and Copenhagen are any example - he's wrong that bike commuting isn't practical.
The Drudge Report stirs the pot by calling it a War on Cars*, which LAB responds to.
*Not to be confused with the movie Maximum Overdrive, the only movie Stephen King directed, which is a war on people by cars.
Below the fold are more comments, all of which have a local angle.
Rob Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation,
Before I state why I think the Secretary is right, I should acknowledge my self interest as a daily bicycle commuter to downtown DC.
One reason relatively few people ride is because the infrastructure is so bad, even in Washington, which has a number of bicycle trails. The DC trails (such as Rock Creek Park or Capital Crescent) are in poor condition (very bumpy) and too narrow, resulting in unsafe and crowded conditions. Once the trails end in DC bicyclists have to take their life into the own hands riding on crowded streets. Not to mention the fact that the trails are not maintained. I was not able to ride from before Christmas until early March because they were filled with snow. Imagine if the Beltway was not plowed this winter and Maryland DOT decided to just wait until the snow melted.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Member, House Ways And Means Committee
In 14 years of biking in Washington, DC and not using a car, I have produced virtually no wear-and-tear on the roads, no air pollution, no competition for scarce parking spaces, nor added to Washington’s notorious congestion.
Keith Laughlin of Rails to Trails adds
My daughter turns 24 today. She still doesn’t have a driver’s license. Neither does her 20 year old brother. That was unheard of in my youth. I got my license the day after I turned 16. But my kids grew up in a family that valued both cycling and its AAA membership. And they grew up in a place – Washington D.C. – with a world-class public transportation system that permitted them the option of mobility without driving.