Taking Sides (or Not)

On the National Journal’s Transportation blog, Tom Madigan posed the following question to a panel of policy experts: “Is it still possible to promote new bicycling and walking options in harmony with vehicular traffic? Or as city space gets more limited, will planners have to take sides?”

Panel members included (among others) Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR; Bill Graves, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations; Keith Laughlin, President, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists; and John Horsley, Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

It’s an interesting discussion that’s well worth a read.

National Journal Transportation blog

[via Cyclelicious]

31 Responses to “Taking Sides (or Not)”

  • Fergie says:

    I have to admit skimming most of the panelists’ responses (I have work to do, you know..), but I completely agree with Andy Clarke’s point that we need to focus on mode shift where possible when the distance travelled is under 3 miles. For me, an avid recreational cyclist, a 3 mile ride is the beginning of a warmup but for most people it constitutes a ride or walk beyond what they’re comfortable with. The key is facilities – if it doesn’t pass the ‘Mom’ test, the current non-riders will not consider using it. We need dedicated lanes that have physical segregation from auto traffic along main transit corridors. We need to connect our communities with an eye toward making a trip around each town in a 3-5 mile radius as safe as is possible. If we leave any sections unprotected, the adjacent transit corridors won’t get the use they were designed for. It has to be as interconnected and seamless (and perceived to be as safe as driving currently is) to be accepted (and used) by the prototypical suburban mom.

    I live in a suburb north of San Francisco, at the end of a valley served by a primary arterial surface street named after one of the continents great explorers (Sir Francis Drake). It’s almost unbelievable the traffic difference during regular commute hours when you compare the summer months to the school year. I would estimate that at least 40-50% of the traffic on that street is parents driving their children to school or teenagers driving themselves. It backs everything up from the arterial to the feeder streets and leaves everyone tense. I ride in the bike lane where there is one and on the shoulder where there isn’t, and it’s not comfortable. We talk all the time about reducing car trips where bicycle or pedestrian traffic can take the place, but the needle hasn’t moved much. People who are passionate about cycling will cycle even in poor conditions. The rest will drive, even through creeping traffic, if the alternative doesn’t pass the Mom test.

  • Androo says:

    I’m pretty content to be combative and dichotomous about the issue. Everywhere that there are bicycles, pedestrians, buses, or trains, it means that there don’t need to be cars – each is the equivalent of the other in purpose, but not in footprint. Every step that can be taken to improve the adoption of non-car transportation will help to eliminate vehicular congestion and the burden on society that represents…even if, counter-intuitively, that means dedicating what was formerly a thoroughfare for cars strictly to alternatives. The densities that are represented are simply incomparable.

    I’m assuming everyone has seen this image (was it posted on this blog?):

    Each represents the space occupied by the same number of people, in cars, on buses, and on bikes. It’s really important to get that sense of perspective.

  • Androo says:

    Hmm, I guess I’m not allowed to embed images. Here’s a URL (higher res version of it, anyway)

    http://user.cloudfront.goodinc.com/community/zach/space_vis.jpg

  • Alan says:

    @Androo

    You can embed images but they have to be wrapped in the appropriate html img tag…

  • sb mike says:

    Framing the question in this way will always put alternative transportation solutions in a losing situation because cars and car culture are so ingrained into the fabric of american cities.
    A similar question was asked of sec of transportation LaHood… “Is the money that DOT is contributing to alternative infrastructure coming from highway improvement projects?” LaHood basically avoided a direct response because doing so would trigger and wave of outrage to the “cars are basic” folks.
    Obviously there will be change because some people are finally realizing that more highways are not the answer. I just hope we can get enough bike infrastructure and folks riding bikes before the car-lovers start realizing what’s going on.

  • MJS says:

    The number of smokers in the USA declined from 42% of adults to 20% of adults in only 40 years, with the help of the federal government in restricting advertising of tobacco companies, a massive public health campaign, and a small but vocal minority of activists working hard to get things done.

    I think a similar approach needs to be taken with the car.

    Pro-bike and pro-bus adverts don’t really work to get people out of their cages. Even my city (Tucson, AZ), which was just named the best city for road biking in Outdoor magazine, is completely car dependent. From outward appearances, it looks like half the city is employed by used car dealerships, repair shops, car washes, and fueling stations. Despite the great weather, only something like 1% of the population uses a bike for commuting.

    I think it’s time to go negative. People respond much better to fear than they do to anything else (see cigarettes above). A gigantic media blitz against cars would be a good first step to getting people onto bikes, buses, and rail (where available).

  • Willis says:

    With all the loudmouths expressing their anger at the “size” of government these days you would think that recognition of the fact that accomodating auto use is one of those areas of government intrusion into our lives that isn’t necessary on the scale that is has been occuring for the last half to 3/4 century. I don’t think the question we need to ask is does this situation equate to cars vs. other modes….that question is easily answered and recognized by most people who have read this blog. The real question comes down to when is the efficiency of pedestrian/cycle modes going to be prioritized in recognition of the fact that giving priority to the auto mode in areas where trips are under 5 miles has resulted in a extremely inefficient planning circumstance for most communities. The net result of this lopsided prioritization are extreme costs burdening governments at all levels to the point where investments in other basic services are being overlooked. Local governments in particular (I say this as an urban dweller) need to refocus their energies to reflect prioritization of benefits of urban life that cannot be attained in suburban/ rural environs. Accessability, community, health, diversity, local sustainability, and efficiency of movement should be the priorities of the urban locality. Market these unique qualities to middle class net tax contributors when promoting the urban environment followed by an improvement in quality of education and I think you will see that people will gladly choose to vote with their feet and select to live in urban environments where their quality of living isn’t burdened by long commutes, high transport costs, and cul de sac isolation that we see in the suburbs currently.

  • Neil O says:

    We have this (to me bizarre) tendency to label Americans not as people but as “consumers”. As if the sole function of a person is to spend money.

    This consumption-oriented mentality is reflected in the housing choices we make. It’s the biggest newest house in a distant suburb rather than a smaller house or condo within the city limits. Many consider a larger suburban house to be a better value (more for the money, safer neighborhood, better schools, etc). Having made the choice to live in the suburbs “consumers” are then compelled to own an automobile to get around. Thus the priority to maintain the highway system at any cost.

    To change this I think you have to unwind the consumption-oriented value system. Is the larger house really better? Does a 60+ minute commute really make for an acceptable quality of life? Can adopting a sustainable lifestyle also create better economic opportunity for more Americans? And, somewhat cynically, can a general shift to an sustainable lifestyle preset significant financial upside to those who are already rich?

    What would an alternative to that set of values look like, and what would it take to fundamentally shift everyone to that alternate view? Because until that shift occurs, it seems to me, the argument from trucking/shipping lobby will continue to ring true for many voters: “Trucking is key to shipping goods to consumers all over the country, and so the maintenance and expansion of the highway system is critical to economic growth.”

  • Stephen says:

    Asking a trucking lobbyist this question is a waste of time. You know what the answer is going to be.

    The title of the article is sensationalist and just wrong. Yes, the LAB guy probably has the “best” answer, but perhaps we should be looking towards the northern European countries for the future of our cities. They seem to accommodate everyone to some degree, and yes, driving or parking a truck or a car in these cities is expensive. So what? Our cities for the most part don’t even approach the density of older northern (and southern, for that matter) European cities, and part of that is the immense space and infrastructure needs and externalities of cars. Parking lots and garages. Roads. Driveways. We have no choice but to provide choices on how to get around if our cities are going to survive and prosper, and those choices should include walking and bicycling. Duh.

  • Fergie348 says:

    Hmm, I live in a ‘distant’ suburb where most people have cars. I’m one of them. Luckily for me, there’s a ferry and bus system that can get me to the urban core where I work. And there are lots of bike paths and relatively safe streets that allow me to commute on my bicycle pretty much whenever I choose, which is mostly.

    I know a few other regular commuters in my area, but the mode share for our town is something like 3% of all trips. If you exclude trips over 10 miles, the mode share goes up to about 8% but it’s still laughably small. Why?

    I’d say that to increase mode share to reasonable levels (~25%)we need to do one or at most two things well. Build real segregated facilities (no, striping some bike lanes won’t do it..) and increase the real cost of petroleum powered transit.

    Pretty basic stuff, no need to completely change our way of life as seems to be the popular sentiment here. Mind you, I’m not opposed to living a more enlightened and sustainable existence, I’m just trying to be a bit practical. An inevitable reaction to sitting in one too many planning meetings in my town..

  • solatic says:

    Owning a car needs to be and should be expensive.

    Unfortunately, high cost of ownership does NOT alleviate traffic issues. I’m in Israel right now and gas is $6.75 a gallon, approaching $7 a gallon, and it’s STILL not getting people out of their cars despite fantastic bus infrastructure (American bike infrastructure looks godly compared to Israeli bike infrastructure… no bike lanes here, not even any shoulders on the side of the road, hardly any places to lock up your bike downtown in Jerusalem…). New cars are taxed for more than 100% of their value, so small European cars here with no trunks that would maybe fetch $12,000 new in the US instead cost almost $30,000. Yet more Israelis than ever own cars and the highways are consistently jammed in urban areas.

    The only things that will get Americans out of their cars and onto bikes are serious campaigning, decent and cheap e-bikes (so the fatsos used to their cars can actually get to work), and physically separated bike infrastructure.

  • Stephen says:

    Word, solatic.

  • Stephen says:

    Germany, where I have previously lived and drove, also has a high cost of ownership for cars. Gasoline is expensive, as well as insurance, parking, etc. Still, so many have cars. Ireland is the same way, as well as England, France, Italy, etc.

    Guess too many of us will have the steering wheel removing only when it is taken out of our cold, dead hands…

  • peteb says:

    I’m glad to see that there is recognition that the real issue is the massive subsidies afforded to the automobile in the US, not trying to “accommodate” alternative modes. I work in climate and energy policy and I am continually shocked (though it is becoming less of a surprise and more disgust) at how many otherwise well intentioned folks can’t recognize that gasoline, oil exploration, roadway/highway construction and maintenance, and health effects are all absorbed by the public at large (socialized, if you will). All of that burden is carried by each taxpayer regardless of the level of participation in automobile culture. Ecovelo just ran a nice piece/link on Copenhagen. Ask a Dane: when you buy one car you pay for three. The car is expensive, the gas is expensive, the automobile operators pay a larger share of the costs. Those costs reflect a more accurate picture of the actual social costs of that particular technology. Most Americans just assume that cheap gas, and cheap cars, subsidized through federal taxes, is a birthright. It isn’t, but spreading the social costs out to every citizen is.

    When gasoline in the US started nudging $5.00/gal, real change happened. I saw the data on gasoline consumption (The EIA has lots of this, easily available) and it was real. The petroleum industry saw it too. Gas was $2.65 this afternoon. The utter shock of paying 10-20% less for gas than Europe has been paying for over a decade drove Americans to make real changes. Changes that persist even after pump prices relax. Gasoline sales are still down even after prices dropped by almost 50%. The effect is fading. Big Oil is winning.

    I really believe that if car owners bore the cost of their actions their decision making would change dramatically. THEN, in that fantasy land where the playing field was level, you could have a discussion about competition for lane space among various modes. IMO, John Horsley is in a dream world. Blacktop funding outstrips any other type of DOT funding, Fed-DOT or State-DOT, by *many* orders of magnitude. In most states they don’t even have one FTE dealing with bike planning. No plan for upgrading existing roadways to mixed-mode use, and no requirements that new roadways be built with mixed-mode features. His feel-good “look at the nice suburban bike paths to nowhere” schtick is complete greenwash. Every time you see a cars-only roadway being repaved with no additional bike lane, think about that.

    The truth is out there, and the dominance of Internal Combustion, and the huge returns made on this 100+ year old technology, are front and center.

  • Pete says:

    I know many cities and towns face what they perceive to be the chicken-egg problem. They won’t build bike infrastructure without cyclists, but they won’t get cyclists without infrastructure. The dominant and vocal constituency is car-centric.
    I agree with peteb that something else, external (most likely gas prices), has to get people out of cars or the system will always default to the status quo and the preservation of “previous investment.”

  • Hakoon says:

    Stephen, you are right. ATM gasoline in Germany is ~7$/gal (1€ = 1.32$) and nobody seems to care. It’s really interesting to see how much people are willing to pay for fuel. I remember a poll a few years ago which said most of the people are willing to pay up to 12$/gal.

  • Stephen says:

    Hakoon,

    Let them pay $12 or even $15/gal. At least that’s more financially honest that paying for everything else with personal income, property, and other taxes. If the so-called conservatives politicians in the U.S. screaming about taxation levels were intellectually honest, they’d support increasing the gas tax by several dollars, and charge tolls nationwide. You could then reduce the general federal (and state) witholding by the same percentage, which would then force needed change w/o increasing taxes. Spend the extra gas tax on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and mass transit, as well as maintenance of existing roads (but no new road construction), and everybody would win.

    Yeah, I know, only when pigs fly, but a boy can dream, eh?

  • Fergie says:

    In general, you should tax what you want less of. This argues against things like payroll and income tax and in favor of use taxes, especially when there’s a good policy reason to want less of a particular thing. There are several good policy reasons to want less driving, so making it more expensive is a really clear and rational policy choice. Unfortunately, at this point in our history in most of this country it amounts to political suicide.

    I’ve written to my U.S. senators and congresswoman to request that as part of any energy legislation we consider a rise in the federal excise tax on petroleum fuels. Currently I believe those taxes are set at about 18 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24 cents per gallon for diesel fuels. Laughably small would describe it, and completely confusing as diesel is primarily used in industrial vehicles like trucks, tractors, trains etc. Why would diesel be taxed more highly? In every European country diesel fuel is taxed less than gasoline, which has encouraged development of clean diesel technology for passenger cars. Anyway, the federal tax needs to go up to at least a dollar a gallon and preferably 2 or 2.5. In most Euro zone countries the tax is between 60 to 90 cents per liter, which is almost 20x what we charge on the federal level.

  • Fergie says:

    One tax problem – having a fuel only monetary basis is highly regressive. Poor people pay way more than rich people as a percentage of income for fuels and transportation costs in general. We need to also fund this system through a progressive car sales tax and license and registration fees (and income taxes – unfortunately this is still the best way to redistribute money in an excessively capitalist society).

    I’d love to see an ever increasing share of money for road repaving dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian projects. In order for this to be viable, each community needs to have a bike plan with projects scoped out and ‘shovel ready’, otherwise when it’s time to write the proposals or spend the money bike and pedestrian projects will not be considered. It has to be clear and obvious from the transportation department’s point of view otherwise it won’t get done.

  • solatic says:

    @Fergie

    Except you don’t really want gas taxes to go up for businesses. For consumers, yes, because people driving under a mile in a car is idiotic. But driving up the cost of gas will make trucking more expensive and as such will make all your groceries, etc. more expensive.

    In a perfect world, you’d actually have a lane or two in each direction dedicated to 18-wheelers so that they can move without congestion, along with “essential vehicles” like ambulances and other supply vehicles (the other lanes being for public transportation and bikes).

    If you could raise gas taxes while making sure it doesn’t affect businesses (refund or something), then great. Until then, if raising costs actually affected usage (though my previous post shows it doesn’t), then the best way would be to increase the cost of consumer cars – increasing taxation on personal automobiles.

  • solatic says:

    @Fergie

    We WANT a gas tax to be regressive. Perhaps it’ll encourage poor people to use cheaper solutions and manage their money better, but in any case, it would actually force segments of the population to adopt bicycling – a cheaper transportation solution – and solve the chicken-and-egg problem of how to convince cities to build bike infrastructure when no one rides bikes.

    Regressive taxes are only bad when they’re passed on basic necessities, because everyone, including poor people, need basic necessities no matter what. But passing regressive taxes on luxury items – like cars – is OK, as poor people shouldn’t be buying luxury items anyways.

  • Fergie348 says:

    There’s no way – no way to increase fuel taxes without affecting the cost of goods at market. Europe tries to mitigate this a bit by providing tax exemptions for things like tractor fuel (which is colored red..) but ultimately if you drive up the cost of transportation you’ll drive up the cost of goods.

    In a perfect world you wouldn’t use trucks at all for long haul freight – you’d use rail and ship carriage for those needs. Short haul trips will be made by truck but the fact that 80% of our cross country shipping is made by truck is a tremendous indictment of our transportation infrastructure. We’ve been prioritizing highways over rail for so long we don’t even know it’s wrong anymore..

    I disagree that raising costs doesn’t affect usage. Your previous post indicates that Israelis are not price sensitive when it comes to mode choice (Buses are cheap and plentiful, while cars are expensive and traffic is bad. People still choose to drive). Well, Israel is atypical in that there is a perceived safety issue with buses that exists almost nowhere else in the world. I think you know what I mean..

    In this country and in Europe, fuel prices have a dramatic effect not only on how many miles are driven but also what sort of vehicle they’re driven in. Part of our problem lies in how much we drive. Another part of the problem lies in what we choose to drive. The only way to solve both issues simultaneously is to raise the price of driving and invest some of the proceeds into infrastructure that promotes transportation alternatives like cycling, public transit, etc.

  • Stephen says:

    Businesses SHOULD be affected by the gas tax. Why should the taxpayers (no, I’m not a Tea Party fanatic) subsidize the huge SUVs and trucks (and the fuel they require) that so many tradesman, real estate agents, consultants, etc. purchase simply because they can write off the purchase on their taxes? Why should we not reward local farmers instead of subsidizing tomatoes and fruit driven across the U.S.? Why should our taxes subsidize the transportation of manufactured goods from the half dozen major ports to every Sprawl-Mart across the country? That last one is another failure of anti-tax politicians, where jobs are outsources because the U.S. taxpayer underwrites not only the cost of air, sea, and land transportation, but the military operations necessary to protect air and sea lanes.

    This country needs to have a come-to-Jesus talk about taxes, but the protection of certain economic sectors against any change in the status quo is precisely why this talk is avoided, denied, and constantly postponed. Meanwhile, other countries forge ahead into the future…

  • Pete says:

    I don’t think businesses should be exempt from our hypothetical huge gas tax. The true cost of shipping a head of lettuce across the country SHOULD result in $20 lettuce. Then it would make economic sense for that local farmer to keep his farm and grow lettuce, instead of selling it to a developer to grow another subdivision. Why continue to hide all the externality cost from business, but not from private citizens?

  • Fergie348 says:

    ‘Regressive taxes are only bad when they’re passed on basic necessities, because everyone, including poor people, need basic necessities no matter what. But passing regressive taxes on luxury items – like cars – is OK, as poor people shouldn’t be buying luxury items anyways.’

    Well, I think getting to work or to school is far from a luxury item. It’s one of the necessities of life, getting around. And poor people should be able to do it safely and relatively cheaply. Unfortunately in this country where so many people live far from where they work that means driving. Many things need to change before we can consider car ownership a luxury. I live in one of the most expensive places in the world (Marin county) and I see both the very rich (in their expensive cars, early and alone) and poor (in their old and cheap cars, usually carpooing) driving somewhere in the morning and evening. Presumably to work. I want them all to have a viable choice in their transportation options. And that requires infrastructure spending on bicycle, rail and pedestrian facilities that has yet to be seriously discussed or considered in this country. We fight for the scraps of infrastructure spending when we should be getting if not the lion’s share than at least the cub’s..

  • Fergie348 says:

    Oh, and if we’re going to be progressive in our taxation scheme let’s make sure to tax things like capital gains and wealth transfers. Only rich people are subject to such things..

  • Mike S. says:

    @solatic

    “We WANT a gas tax to be regressive. Perhaps it’ll encourage poor people to use cheaper solutions and manage their money better, but in any case, it would actually force segments of the population to adopt bicycling – a cheaper transportation solution – and solve the chicken-and-egg problem of how to convince cities to build bike infrastructure when no one rides bikes.”

    This I can partially agree with, but only partially.

    What if you don’t have a traditional job — like my parents who resell old junk and collectables for a living? (imagine Sanford and Son, or the UK equivalent Steptoe and Son, except with fewer laughs and more depression.)

    Together, my mom and dad made less than $20,000 last year (they don’t even have separate storage for all their merchandise, they simply store it in the house). For them, being able to go out to the flea markets/boot sales and garage sales is a matter of bare subsistence. Bicycles don’t have the necessary attributes necessary for such work (cargo capacity for furniture and the ability to go from one end of the city to another in less than 30 minutes).

    The amount of driving they do is much higher than the average person, and I’m sure that because of it they’ve introduced more than their fare share of CO2 and particulate matter into the atmosphere, but I can’t fault them for that as there are no other jobs out there for which they are qualified (mom never graduated high school, dad’s got a GED).

    A increased gas taxes would leave them unable to make any sort living. It would kill their business, and thousands of others along with it.

    As much as I hate to say it, unless higher gas and vehicle taxes are followed with some sort of scheme for a guaranteed minimum subsistence-level income, I can’t support it.

  • solatic says:

    @Fergie

    First of all, there hasn’t been a suicide bomber on an Israeli bus in a good 5 years. The buses are entirely safe. Other foreign exchange students and I ride the buses all the time in Jerusalem and they are, on occasion, packed to the brim. So no, that’s not why Israelis stay in their cars – might’ve been a reason 5-6 years ago, but not today.

    @Pete

    Except you could never feed the entirety of most urban centers entirely on local produce. How many farms are close to New York City? How many days out of the year could they alone meet New York City’s current demand? You’ll see local farmers in New York raise the price of their produce because demand outstrips supply, and see $20 heads of lettuce regardless of its source. Are local farms better than far-off food factories? You betcha. But the rise of the densely populated urban center means that we can’t just rely on local produce anymore. Of course, you could create tax incentives for produce sold within 75 miles of its place of growth and let the market decide…

    @Fergie
    Those poor people are driving BECAUSE THERE IS NO BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE. Rich Marin County wouldn’t exactly have the best public bus system in the world. Build more public bus lines, build more light rail and heavy rail, build more bike infrastructure, GIVE THEM A CHOICE, and they would get out of their expensive cars (car payments + gas + insurance = $300/month easy, even today – when was the last time you spent that kind of money on buses or bikes?) like (*snap fingers*) that! But we have this chicken-and-egg problem here that unfortunately makes it too hard to create the infrastructure first, so we have to go at it a different way.

    @Mike
    They have a business that depends on their vehicle, hence they would be able to write off the gas tax. They’d be driving something like a pickup truck for that furniture, and they should be able to easily demonstrate (receipts, etc.) that it’s kept full most of the time. In that regard, no difference between them and a moving business or between them and a huge conglomerate moving office chairs from one branch to another.

  • peteb says:

    I guess it ends up being a semantic argument of tax increases vs subsidy decreases, but the reality is that we do pay a lot for fuel, just not at the pump. The Fed lays huge amounts of money on the petroleum, automobile, and highway industries. That money comes from taxpayers. Those subsidies are socialized, but citizens certainly do pay for it in the form of income tax. Removing those subsidies lays more of the burden on the actual users and less on bystanders, and would leave more funding available for other infrastructure investments. Also, If the costs are highly correlated to use then you have an incentive to make other social decisions. i.e. Codes of planning and development have a different look because everyone understands that building housing with no connection to services other than automobile-centric surface roads places a huge burden on the people in that housing.

    An example of highly socialized costs: I pay 75% of my property tax to support a school system that educates the children in my community, but I don’t have any children. I am paying a steep social cost for the luxury of having a literate (another argument for sure) population. Nobody comes to me and says: “you don’t have any kids, here is your 75% rebate”. Likewise I pay a sizeable chunk o’ paycheck in income tax that is used to, among other things, subsidize oil exploration! (Yes, we pay the most profitable corporations in the history of mankind to perform their core business function. America’s “McFly” moment if there ever was one.) Nobody says “you get a rebate for not owning a car and living in a walkable community”. I returned from a trip to Europe and was asked about gas prices. One coworker made a comment about “socialism” and how it doomed these supposed “socialists” to pay $7 for a gallon of gas. Sorry Charlie… gas is $7 because the cost of that gallon is not socialized. No cookie for you! The multiple interleaved layers of transit options that service 90% of the population. That is socialized. As it should be.

    European development is predicated on mass-transit access. They simply didn’t build significant amounts of housing without having the mass trans, bike lanes, walkable access to basic services… in place beforehand. The costs of owning/operating a car make it more of a luxury and less of a necessity, and that is reflected in development patterns. Large swaths of America, roughly, oh… 100%, would have to be redeveloped to support anything other than cars in significant numbers. So call it chicken or egg, Americans live in a system in which car ownership is a necessity and other options are heavily inconvenient, not v-v. Stuffing that genie back in the bottle is one heck of a trick.

  • peteb says:

    BTW, a graphic example of the effect of having a social system that virtually demands automobile use would look something like this:

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_oil_con-energy-oil-consumption

    or this:

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/07/a_picture_is_wo.php

  • Fergie348 says:

    @solatic: I agree with you completely on infrastructure. I was talking to a bus driver just this week who was saying that a neighbor (who is a county supervisor) had to campaign with the transit agency to keep bus service to Sausalito into the evening hours so that workers who lived in SF could get home.

    The bus service is commuter hours only in my town – if you want to go into the urban core after 8:30 am or come home after 7 you have to drive. It’s targeted to a narrow segment of users, either commuters on a pretty specific schedule or tourists. It is not and has never been a realistic transit option for people to use as a car replacement. We ripped the light rail out of our valley 50 years ago and paved it into a street that is now clogged with cars during commute hours.. We need options and bikes can provide that but we must build dedicated infrastructure to support it otherwise people won’t bike to town in large numbers because of safety issues.

    @PeteB: Probably the biggest reasons that European cities have better bike infrastructure than US equivalents are historical and geographical. European cities were all built before cars were invented. A high percentage of US cities were built after cars came on the scene, so personal auto traffic was a factor in designing the cities. Also, most of the European cities where mode share for bicycles is above 20% are in flat areas. Hopefully this changes somewhat with the advent of eBikes, but people who are not avid cyclists just do not like to climb hills. Or sweat on the way to work. It’s a real roadblock, especially for professional women I know. Taken in combination (Lack of infrastructure, leading to perceived safety issues, plus the physical difficulty, plus the lack of facilities on the other end to fix your look and smell and park your bike), it’s not surprising why the commute share for bicycles is so low. We must build it, otherwise they surely won’t come, even if fuel costs reach $6 or $7 a gallon as they probably should.

 
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