Isn’t Self-Sufficiency a Conservative Thing?

Anyone who’s ever maintained a blog knows how easily it can burn you out. So we’d like to give a special welcome back to one of our Streetsblog Network members, WalkBikeCT, which has returned to the keyboard with a renewed sense of purpose after a few months of hiatus.

Their first offering of the new year is a fine essay from contributor Tom Harned on "The Conservative Case for Walking and Biking." Harned makes the point that the freedom and self-reliance regularly trumpeted by conservatives are perfectly embodied by pedestrian and bicycle transportation. Infrastructure that enforces auto dependence effectively negates that self-reliance.

So why aren’t more conservatives supporting bike and ped infrastructure? Harned writes:

3797967061_2196453d56.jpgNot a landscape that encourages self-reliant transportation (Photo: Matt_Picio via Flickr)

When did getting oneself from here to there using your own two feet
become "liberal"? When did conservatives get the idea that providing
your own transportation — that relying on your own muscle and sweat, as
opposed to a gasoline engine — become something other than a virtue,
something worthy of scorn and mockery, something to be discouraged? A
true conservative would promote all forms of personal mobility.

Conservatives
will often talk about how government should be as lean and efficient as
possible. Spending taxpayer money is a serious issue and therefore, the
government should utilize tax dollars in such a way as to provide the
greatest level of service for the least expenditure.

The current
auto-oriented transportation policy often championed by the
conservative members of both the Connecticut General Assembly and the
United States Congress is anything but cost-effective and efficient.
Our state and federal gas taxes do not come close to paying for the
highway system we all enjoy. This means that all citizens, no matter
how much or how little they drive, end up subsidizing this costly
system through their income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and all
manner of other fees levied on them by local, state, and federal
governments.

For another great analysis of why conservatives should promote walkable communities and transit, see this essay by David Schaengold, published by the Witherspoon Institute last spring. Also check out Transportation for America‘s report on the debate they held in December on conservatives and public transportation, featuring William Lind, co-author of Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation.

More from around the network: Bike Portland has a guide to bicycle insurance options. Biking in LA writes about the power of simple courtesy on the road. And The City Fix takes on the thorny issue of how citizen participation can impede smart growth.

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