I don’t think cycling is an inherently “liberal” or “conservative” activity, in fact I think it shouldn’t even be as hyped as it has been since the upswing of gas prices and the rise in commuter cycling activity across the country. Go to locations where cycling is a large part of the transportation infrastructure and you will find that people don’t “kit up” or “gear down” to get to work via bicycle, they simply ride a bike because the facilities available to them make it a entirely feasible and efficient means of transport. Tom Bowden is the administrator for the Virginia Bike Commuters group on linkedin and he has posted some interesting articles he has written on other blogs on the web. How to Talk About Cycling to A Conservative makes a lot of valid points about how increasing cycling facilities is actually a more economic means by which to achieve transportation improvements. As a student of Public Administration, it’s my job to always evaluate policies based on the four E’s of Public Administration. Efficiency, Effectiveness, Economy, and Equity. When analyzing just the costs associated with cycling infrastructure improvements one can easily see that providing facilities for cyclists takes auto’s off the road lessening congestion, reduces wear and tear, and increases the life cycle of our other transportation alternatives. So in terms of economy, it’s a clear win to advocate for these changes. Furthermore, reducing congestion greatly increases the efficiency of the system and puts time and money into the hands of consumers who can then utilize those dollars elsewhere in the economy. As an urban dweller, this approach must be recognized by policy makers, in that, these dollars will most likely be spent right here, on local businesses who deserve our support and contribute right back to the communities we seek to improve and do so without the forced policy making of government intrusion. Truly a boon for a fiscal hawk. Lastly, the cost of car ownership in the United States has been quantified as being close to $10,000 annually according to the AAA, and this is based on a gallon of gas costing $2.88. Show me that gas station and I’ll show you a line of cars unlike you have ever seen and NBC 12 and their trucks all lined up to report on it in the 11 o’clock news. In terms of an equitable delivery of services, forcing all users to buy a car or be reliant on auto based transport severely marginalizes those on the bottom socioeconomic rungs of our societal ladder. An inability to effectively locate gainful employment, educational on social service opportunities, and healthcare options creates a feedback loop where ultimately the haves are paying into the system to simply prevent a breakdown of access to the essential services necessary to keep one from becoming a greater burden on the system.
Everyone reading this blog probably knows these things already, but what you might not know is that the Tea-Partiers in congress are hijacking funds being made available to further these policies in American cities. On a philosophical level, I can agree with a reduction in the size of the federal government, but to initiate policies that maintain the status quo of car centric transportation simply shows a lack of understanding of the big picture as it relates to policy issues. As long as the wool remains pulled, it’s going to be an uphill battle to really effect change, but knowing what we know (facts) one can only hope that at some point the critical mass will come and things will begin to change and create more efficiencies in the way we spend our tax dollars on transportation in the U.S.