Widening highways?

Here’s Minority Leader Boehner on the stimulus package:

“I think there’s a place for infrastructure, but what kind of infrastructure? Infrastructure to widen highways, to ease congestion for American families? Is it to build some buildings that are necessary?” He stated. “But if we’re talking about beautification projects, or we’re talking about bike paths, Americans are not going to look very kindly on this.”

Who are these Americans anyway, these anti-bike path people? Some of us Americans think it’s downright patriotic to invest in infrastructure that would help ease our dependence on foreign oil. “Infrastructure to widen highways” is surely not the answer to our problems!

Read more in The Hill

19 Responses to “Widening highways?”

  • BlackBear says:

    Well if some talking head said it, it must be true. Why on earth would any red blooded American like the idea of being in control of their own transportation? Why would any of us desire choices in how we move about?!

    Clearly the idea of bike lanes is an extremist plot to undermine the social fabric that made this country what it is… the single biggest polluter in the world.

    I think the cycling community needs to realize that we are still a small minority of the voting public and therefore our wishlists are easy punchlines for politicians of either tie color.

  • Joe says:

    @ BlackBear:

    All the more reason to make our voice heard. Contact your representatives and let them know that cycling infrastructure is what is needed to lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

  • Tod Robbins says:

    He couldn’t have a more appropriate name, could he?

  • tdp says:

    I just wrote him here (http://republicanleader.house.gov/Contact/) and ask that you do the same.

  • Croupier says:

    @ tdp

    My thoughts exactly, I just finished doing the same thing before I saw your post.

  • Elisa M says:

    “Infrastructure to widen highways, to ease congestion for American families?”

    What exactly does he think bike paths will do…ease congestion. Numerous studies show larger/increased roadways actually increase congestion. A little research on his part is something I would look kindly upon.

  • greenflash says:

    Boehner is just a shill for the extreme right wing.
    Therefore, his seeming lack of sensibility is understandable.
    Republicans blocked assistance for American auto companies, but they want wider highways. So what are people supposed to drive on the wider highways?
    Also, the CCC and WPA had plenty of projects that did not have obvious benefits, but Americans were damn glad to have the jobs. And I’m glad for all the 1930’s and 1940’s WPA sidewalks in my neighborhood.

  • Kenn says:

    Add one more email to our minority leader.
    BTW: The quote originated from an interview this Sunday on Face the Nation

  • Adrienne says:

    We need wider highways to hold all the cars being driven to the Unemployment Office :(

  • Ron Georg says:


    I’ve never needed “bicycle infrastructure” to reduce my dependence on foreign oil. Or, rather, I’ve found we already have the infrastructure. It’s called “roads”. They are our public rights of way, and we should fight for our right to them. Widening some would be a good start, so long as the extra width isn’t allowed to be co-opted by automobiles.

    I’m not opposed to bike paths. I use ours regularly. However, most are inadequate to the task of reducing traffic congestion. If they did that, we’d have empty roads and crowded bike paths.

    What we really need is a shift in perspective, which may need to be driven, sadly, by enforcement. We need zero tolerance for abuse of roads by drivers piloting two-ton weapons. Aggressive, distracted drivers need to be convinced that sharing our public space is a civic act which requires civil behavior. If they can’t do that, they should lose their driving privilege just as drunks do–after all, aggression and distraction cause more collisions. We also need to stop referring to wrecks as “accidents”. Just because something is unintentional doesn’t make it accidental.

    As noted, I like separate facilities. I like Copenhagen’s low barriers and bicycle traffic signals. I agree we should pursue these goals, but cyclists should also be on the forefront of insisting on road safety. The fact that 40,000 people die needlessly from automotive negligence in this country every year, without so much as a candlelight vigil, should be evidence of the tyranny of the automobile. As one infamous tyrant noted, “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”

    As the most vulnerable road users, cyclists should insist that we recognize the tragedy, rather than turning away in fear of the statistic. After all, it’s not likely anyone will build a bike path to everyone’s front door, so we all need to use the roads at some point.
    Happy Trails (I hope)
    Ron Georg

  • tdp says:

    I live in an area (country roads) with no bike infrastructure at all and hardly a shoulder to bike on, yet thousands of cyclist bike our island every summer. It’s amazing to me as a EMT/firefighter that I have not had to pick up to many dead or broken bodies off the road as roads here can be unforgiving and the drivers just as intolerant.

    When I first moved to the island I was amazed when a county road designer told me that there were there no plans to widen the roads but were to actually allow some roads to narrow. The reasoning was that they had research which showed that narrow roads made drivers slow down. I have since seen some of this evidence but it leaves me wondering, “what about the cyclists and where do they fit in?”

    At the beginning of last fall I went to a transportation summit with a focus on alternative transportation in our area. It left me with the conclusion that in conjunction with improving roads for cyclists (widening not necessarily being one of the improvements), separate bike paths were much realistic, more needed, and costing no more than adding bike lanes to existing roads.

    In my area, fighting for “an equal share of the roads” isn’t the answer. I personally don’t want to have to go the long way around a town with all the other traffic via one way streets and other traffic barriers meant for cars and not pedalled vehicles. I also don’t see how this will improve driver’s road rage toward cyclists even if we do “throw away the key.” No matter how absurd, the second any cyclist breaks a law, in the mind of a angry motorists, it will justify any hatred they have toward all cyclists. I don’t see this as a winning situation for anyone.

    So I think a we should concentrate on building separate bike paths but supplemented them with better planing and better safety features on motorways for cyclists. I really like the way the Dutch and Danes build their roads and throughways and think that would be a good template to start out with.

  • John Boehner can suck it. « Discovering Something New Every Day says:

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  • Ron Georg says:


    TDP wrote:

    “It’s amazing to me as a EMT/firefighter that I have not had to pick up to many dead or broken bodies off the road as roads here can be unforgiving and the drivers just as intolerant.”

    It is amazing, isn’t it? Yet it’s true–bicycling on the road isn’t nearly as dangerous as it would seem. (Tom Vanderbilt’s “Traffic” has some excellent insights into why what seems most dangerous can really be most safe on the roads.) Conversely, bike paths are much more dangerous than they seem, especially where they inevitably intersect with roads, where neither cyclists nor drivers expect one another.

    “I also don’t see how this will improve driver’s road rage toward cyclists even if we do “throw away the key.” No matter how absurd, the second any cyclist breaks a law, in the mind of a angry motorists, it will justify any hatred they have toward all cyclists.”

    That’s my point. The more we give in to the idea that roads are just for cars, the more we justify these feelings. Rage and hate have no place in our public spaces, and we seem to be becoming more tolerant toward them. I can’t accept road rage as a given, and people who can’t control it shouldn’t be allowed to drive (I didn’t say ‘throw away the key’–I wouldn’t jail them unless they hurt someone).

    “I personally don’t want to have to go the long way around a town with all the other traffic via one way streets and other traffic barriers meant for cars and not pedalled vehicles.”

    Most bike paths do take the long way around, because the roads go where the traffic goes, and bike paths go in the leftover space. In my town, the bike path will get you to Main Street, and help you cross under Main Street, but it won’t get you to any of the businesses on Main Street. To do that, you need to claim a lane, because parking takes up the shoulders, and bikes are banned from the sidewalks. It would be impossible to build a bike path along the route, and even if we could, riders would be constantly threatened by the dreaded “right hook” as drivers turn across the path into parking lots–the very same problem that makes riding sidewalks so dangerous.

    Bike paths can be great amenities, as I’m sure they would be for the cyclists visiting TDP’s island. They can even help with cross-town travel, as they do in my little town. They also help novice riders overcome their fears of going out by bicycle. They have their place.

    My worry is that the emphasis on bike paths–which cost a great deal more than on-road accomodations–reinforces the idea that we aren’t safe on the roads, and thus don’t belong there. The truth is we are relatively safe already, and we could be more so with a shift in public perception.

    That has to start with denying people their right to rage and hate.

    Thank you all for this civil discussion.
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg
    Moab, UT

  • tdp says:


    Very good points especially about no allowing road rage as an acceptable “right.” My thinking was limited to the short term while it seems you are thinking longer term and for that I agree with most of what you had to say…. Hell I agreed with most of it before. But from my perspective, which is based on my geographical location, some separate bike paths are needed. I’ve bike for years and still don’t feel comfortable over the current state of our roads as many many long term cyclists in the area have agreed with me, it IS an accident waiting to happen.

    Many cyclists would like to see separate paths which the county road crews will not address which leaves doing something about them up to a gifted person(s) who can raise awareness and funds. I see this as wrong as I have already paid my local and county taxes but am not counted. For my part I blog about it (www.cyclesanjuanislands.com) but there have also been efforts by others but which have stalled mostly because most locals drive cars and are not as concerned.

    Anyhow, enough from me. Cheers to all!

  • Larey says:

    I think the term “bike path” means many different things to different people. The bike paths we have in my town are designed for old folks strolling about with the grand kids. Lots of curves and interesting spots to stand and observe … squirrels?

    Such ‘paths’ are useless to me and I don’t want to spend a ton of money on more of them.

    What I want is a bikeway which looks just like a road except there are no cars (and no pedestrians, no dog joggers, no rollerbladers) just bikes. And I want it to take me from my house to work to shopping. Simple.

    So which kind of bike path was the senator disparaging?

  • Sean says:

    I second what Larey said. I think there is confusion about what is a bike lane versus a bike path.

    To me, bike paths typically run through parks or greenways, and are available to many groups – cyclists, runners, walkers, etc – although frequently lined so that everyone has his or her space.

    Conversely, bike lanes are typically a lane on an established street, that is marked by a white line on the pavement, or, preferably, separated from vehicular traffic by a curb or parking lane. Unlike bike paths, these bike lanes are solely for the use of cyclists.

    Are these definitions something that most people can agree on?

  • bongobike says:

    “Boehner”, what a perfect name for this bone-headed windbag.

  • Ron Georg says:


    I agree with Sean, there is often confusion about the distinction between paths and lanes, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that in this discussion. For instance, when I said, “It would be impossible to build a bike path along our Main Street,” I mean a path. That’s a big problem with bike paths: there’s no room for them where they’re really needed. It would be entirely possible to stripe the road for a lane, though that would mean giving up parking or a driving lane, which isn’t going to happen. That’s why I staunchly defend my right to claim a lane (in the case I’m referring to there are two in each direction, so there’s plenty of room to go around a cyclist).

    Larey’s point is excellent. Bike paths can be maddening, because they’re really multi-use sidewalks, with no rules. Cyclists get the stink-eye, and worse, for simply expecting enough room to pass four-abreast ambularoty coffee-klatches and dog walkers with fifty-foot retractable leashes. We’re supposed to issue directives like “on your right” (which leads to more confusion), or ride along dinging bells like we’re little elves.

    I’ve never seen a path exclusively devoted to cyclists, though I really don’t get out much. I did see a photo of a recently completed bike route (I believe rollerbladers, etc., are welcome as well) near Salt Lake City, which almost parallels a newly completed commuter highway between SLC and its sprawl. I say almost because the highway is a nice, straight route, while the striped bike path winds around. That’s because people can’t wrap their heads around the idea that a cyclist might be heading purposefully from point A to point B, and that we might actually want a direct route instead of a recreational facility.

    Like TDP, I believe I’ve taken enough of your bandwidth; thanks to all for the soapbox, especially Alan. And I recommend TDP’s blog–I’ve been one of those Friday Harbor tourists, coming into port with my bike heavily lubed and wrapped in a tarp in a dinghy.
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg

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