Congress to bicyclists: get a car!
July 23, 2003 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Congress to bicyclists: get a car! A new transportation appropriations bill would eliminate $600 million of annual federal funding for "transportation enhancements" (more info here), such as bike paths and walkways, while increasing funding for highways. Is this a proper reflection of U.S. transportation habits, or just a scheme to deprive alternate transportation of much-needed funding?
posted by jdroth (20 comments total)
Neither. They just need the money for Arab-killing. Don't go around seeing conspiracies everywhere.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:04 PM on July 23, 2003

Here in Oregon, state law requires new bike paths and walkways with all new road construction. I believe the money comes mostly (entirely?) from the state. I'm not sure how this bill would affect bicyclists in Oregon if it were to pass.

I do know that there are number of "rails to trails" type projects around the state that have been funded through the transportation enhancement program. They add a great deal to community livability, even in small towns. It would be a shame to lose funding for these projects.

Actually, the web site has a searchable database of projects that have been funded with this money. The list for Oregon is pretty varied; even the ferry that I take from time-to-time has received funding.
posted by jdroth at 2:11 PM on July 23, 2003

Hmmm, I thought this was a pretty poor article. A lot of the funding they're cutting seems to be for scenic bike paths - great for fitness, not so great for replacing cars on the daily commute. The Transportation Enhancement Program that's being cut also spends a lot of money on "landscape and beautification."
posted by transona5 at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2003

Why would bike riders bitch about more roads being built? Their whole mantra is "the roads belong to us, too", so with more money for road-building, everyone gets more roads.

Sounds like a win/win to me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:27 PM on July 23, 2003

Their whole mantra is "the roads belong to us, too"

Sheesh. Because in the absence of alternatives, the roads are all we've got. Alternatives would still be better and safer.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:30 PM on July 23, 2003

Neither. They just need the money for Arab-killing. Don't go around seeing conspiracies everywhere.

Anything to further the cause.
posted by Witty at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2003

Why would bike riders bitch about more roads being built? Their whole mantra is "the roads belong to us, too", so with more money for road-building, everyone gets more roads.

That'd be nice, except that the article says the more money is going into highways. Kinda tough to ride those on a bike.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:35 PM on July 23, 2003

Why would bike riders bitch about more roads being built?

Why would motorists bitch about more bike paths being built?

transona5 makes a valid point that the Transportation Enhancement Program seems to have a lot of programs which focus on "landscape and beautification". I couldn't get a linkable result from a database search, so I posted the info for Oregon here. While there are certainly some landscaping projects, a majority of the expenditures (and a majority of the money) was put toward construction of bike paths and walkways.

Here's an example of the kind of project that might be funded (but, in this case, wasn't) by this program: My hometown had an abandoned logging road that for twenty years had served as a spot for teens to drag race and drink beer. The city converted this trail into a multiuse bike and pedestrian path that cut across the east side of town, from north to south. There are several entrances along the path's 2.2 mile route.

It's fantastic.

Suddenly there's an attractive alternative to drving to the grocery store. Mom can send Jimmy to the store knowing that he's safer on the trail than on the street.

Yes, bicyclists and pedestrians can use roads, but everyone, especially the motorists, are happier when the other users have either designated space (like a bike lane) or alternate routes (like the trail I mentioned above).
posted by jdroth at 2:42 PM on July 23, 2003

"Why would motorists bitch about more bike paths being built?"

Where did that happen?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:44 PM on July 23, 2003

Well, you're right, crash; I'm just lumping the cut of funding for bike paths into the more general category of "bitching", which it is not (and who is to say the lawmakers are even motorists).

You're right. I'm wrong.
posted by jdroth at 2:51 PM on July 23, 2003

Why would bike riders bitch about more roads being built? Their whole mantra is "the roads belong to us, too", so with more money for road-building, everyone gets more roads.

Except that it's the federal government doing this, which means more money for highways and not surface streets. Trust me, I won't be taking my trusty 10 speed to work on I-59 anytime soon.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:51 PM on July 23, 2003

I'd be happy if they turned all freeways and major HWYs into rail lines, think of all the grass areas we would have instead of parking lots. But the buying of SUVs lately added the why's they bought them; tells me mass public transportation is going to be a hard sell in the US.

Saw a report about why people want 4X4s or larger vehicles so they can be prepared for anything; snow, ice, having amble room bring home a shitload of products some of the reasons. Which makes me think the problem is not having better responsible buyers but these buyers are control freaks.
PS in Texas your annual vehicle registration is by weight not value.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:06 PM on July 23, 2003

Blair to Congress:
But frankly, we need to go beyond even Kyoto, and science and technology is the way.

Climate change, deforestation, the voracious drain on natural resources cannot be ignored. Unchecked, these forces will hinder the economic development of the most vulnerable nations first and ultimately all nations.

So we must show the world that we are willing to step up to these challenges around the world and in our own backyards.

Members of Congress, if this seems a long way from the threat of terror and weapons of mass destruction, it is only to say again that the world security cannot be protected without the world's heart being one. So America must listen as well as lead. But, members of Congress, don't ever apologize for your values.
Congress to Blair: You got it!
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on July 23, 2003

Interesting reading of the relative merits of bikeways vs. roadway bicycle riding from John Forester. He's pretty much the Mother Of All "Ride In the Road' Advocates, and more or less on Mr. C. Davis's side on this.
posted by daver at 3:24 PM on July 23, 2003

i'm with mr_crash and John Forester (though his writing style makes my head hurt) on this one - bicycling works well when bicyclists are afforded at least all the rights of the road that motorists are.

however, it works best when bicyclists are afforded even more road rights than motorists, such as bike lanes, signs, outlined boxes at stoplights, racks on buses and trains, access to bridges, etc. i definitely think that contributions to traffic and pollution reduction merit extra road rights.

and when the SFBC asserts that, "We've seen tremendous change in the last 10 years from striped bike lanes to better signage to bike access to transit and safety promotional campaigns that wouldn't have been possible without the funding," it's clear that these funding cuts affect much more than bike-only pathways. it's a bad, bad spending decision anyway you look at it.

but then again, i disagree with lots of congressional spending decisions. fuck 'em all, the oily, murderous, self-serving bastards!

btw, kudos to Oklahoma. donor state no more! (from Salon link) isn't that what this decision is all about, anyway?
posted by mrgrimm at 4:10 PM on July 23, 2003

John Forester is generally right-on (even though he can come off as a bit strident), but as others have pointed out, this is federal money, and will go to highways, not local roads.

Furthermore, speaking as someone for whom the car is the alternative form of transportation, and the bike the primary, I do not want to see more roads. More roads create more traffic (see the Braess paradox) and more demand to drive. I'd vastly prefer to see existing roads maintained better and upgraded to be more accommodating to bikes.
posted by adamrice at 4:15 PM on July 23, 2003

Those motherfuckers. Just as I'm about to buy a new bike they pull this...
posted by The Michael The at 4:18 PM on July 23, 2003

seriously fascinating reading, adamrice. i can't believe i'd never heard of that b4.

somebody should have told the Atlanta Olympic committee ...
posted by mrgrimm at 4:59 PM on July 23, 2003

Of course. Makes sense. Because we need more cars on the road. More pollution. More danger. More deadly car accidents. More bicyclists being hit by Hummer2 vehicles while someone is bitching on the cellphone about how they get 1 highway / 0 city for gas mileage.

While its true that a lot of this is cutting out Landscaping jobs the DOT does (to make those off-ramps pretty, you know) some of the bike paths that are built from this fund are in fact useful and not just recreational.

A lot of the rails to trails projects nationwide are only partially federally subsidized, with the individual state DOTs picking up the majority of the charge on these. The actual DOTs do very little bike path building, though. Usually they give the money to the local entities to handle through Local Project Authority systems which allows them to do construction and keep a closer tab on them than the state DOTs can handle.

The basic rundown of all of this is that this will have an effect on bike paths. And instead of widening highways to 10 lanes in both directions, why not work on a viable, nationwide mass transit system. High speed trains would be a great solution, and quite viable once built. While the initial outlay of funding would be extremely high, if you do it i segments, the first segment will pay for the second, then those two segments will pay for the next 2, and so on, making it quite viable. Just charge a fair amount for a cross country trip at 800 MPH on a train, and you'll be going good.
posted by benjh at 6:42 PM on July 23, 2003

To echo a previous poster, it is not clear that bike lanes are really much of a solution to bicycle injuries and may even make the problem even worse by making intersections more confusing. The worst dangers to cyclists involve not a lack of space on roadways, but confusion about right-of-way at intersections.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:05 PM on July 23, 2003

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