Why a Republican Congress is Good For Bike Advocates

I am one of the nearly 800 bike advocates from around the country who went to Washington, D.C. last week for the National Bike Summit. I took away an important lesson: The Republican Congress is good for bicycling.

A Republican Congress forces bicycling advocates to improve their message, it empowers Republicans who bicycle to take a stronger role in the active transportation advocacy movement, and it fills Congress with new people who are also potential champions for bicycling.

Bicycling’s most vocal advocates have been largely “blue” over the last ten years, and their rhetoric has shown it. They’ve made the standard appeals: save us from rising sea levels and Big Oil, consider Amsterdam and Copenhagen as models, direct spending to make bicycling safe. More often than not, they have embraced Democratic Party language to push for support of federal legislation and were frustrated when their Republican representatives didn’t seem to bite. Despite the fact that the Democratic Party on the whole never fully stepped up to “own” the bicycling cause, it was clear that bicycling’s champions were always Democrats – but that’s changing. And there’s no reason why Republicans today can’t make bicycling their own party issue.

Last year, when USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood jumped on a table for bike advocates, he was speaking on behalf of a Democratic administration – but also as a registered Republican.

At last week’s National Bike Summit, the absence of one of the movement’s heroes, the very “D” Jim Oberstar, was strongly felt and loudly lamented – but among the mostly “R” Bike Summit delegates representing my home state of Florida, there was an audible sigh of relief. One of them told me, “This is the best summit because it didn’t make me feel like I had to deny my politics to join others who are ‘pro-bike.’”

Another one was blatantly surprised that there even were so many non-Republicans participating. “Bicycling is about freedom, business and preserving small-town America,” he told me. “Of course I’m Republican.” He is also a successful small business owner – and came to his first Summit clearly skilled at forming and maintaining the kinds of political relationships that bicycling advocates need, with members on both sides of the aisle.

Cost reductions, profit margins and jobs creation are what rally the Republican Party and in all of these areas, bicycling really shines. Streetsblog readers know that bicycling infrastructure has a far greater return on investment than a typical car-specific roadway. Even if you take away the “associated” benefits (health, increased public safety, etc), cyclists require less space and cause a fraction of the costly wear and tear that their motored counterparts do to asphalt.

This helped motivate the new Republican chair of the Transportation Committee, Rep. John Mica, to concede bicycles’ right to the road and promise a place for this mode in a new transportation bill. In Mica’s home state of Florida, there are more than 1,000 bicycle retailers and dealers, employing almost 5,000 Floridians, with gross revenues approaching $400 million. And all of these numbers are growing. (Find your state’s numbers from America Bikes.) Think those bike shop owners are all Democrats? Think again!

While it’s true that Republicans have been less likely to co-sponsor pro-bike legislation, that can and will change as the advocacy movement itself embraces the Republicans within its ranks. It’s a matter of how advocates talk about their issues. Sharrows, for example, are not just symbols reminding motorists not to kill cyclists, they are cost-effective ways to expand the capacity of existing roads, create jobs and promote the success of American small businesses.

And regardless of political party, people who bicycle are realizing that they have a lot to offer politicians. They represent a skyrocketing population of diverse constituents who are easily satisfied with affordable programs that also help countless other interest groups. They include small business owners who can introduce them to their local trails or urban roadways in a new, fun, media-friendly way. And while other interests continue to divide themselves along party lines, bicycling advocates are skipping straight to the point: that bicycling is great for the [insert whichever political party with which you’re most comfortable].

Kathryn Moore volunteers as a writer for TransitMiami.com and as the director of the South Florida Bike Coalition, a regional organization of people and groups who collaborate in support of bicycling.

  • David Henderson

    Great piece. That is why it is always better to talk about providing transportation choices (freedom) instead of “alternatives” (elitism).

  • As someone with pretty conservative/libertarian leanings I love to see this kind of coverage and to know that some of my conservative colleagues are standing up for real transportation freedom. Congressman Mica has been a great advocate for sensible transportation policy in my state.

  • Cojo

    Awesome article, well written. As a “D,” It’s nice to read how cycling advocacy is also embraced by our fellow “Rs.”

  • Matthew Toro

    Interesting piece, Kathryn, but I have to fundamentally disagree with your optimistic embrace of a Republican-controlled Congress as it relates to forwarding the national (and state and local) bicycling agenda.

    I agree with the three benefits of a Republican Congress to the bicycling that you mention: (1) it forces advocates to improve their message; (2) Republican bicyclists are now better empowered to assert the agenda; (3) Congress may now be open for powerful new bicycle advocates to rise.

    Those are all great possibilities that all bicycle advocates – left and right – should attempt to cultivate. However, these three reasons reflect a far from sufficient argument for bicycle advocates to welcome the Republican Congress.

    The deeper Republican ideology of “smaller government = greater economic prosperity (for some)” that defines the party, epitomizes the current Tea-Party-infused House, and is the current reason why our federal is currently (as of March 17, 2011) operating without a real budget, is exactly what bicycle advocates have to fear.

    Firstly, let me make it clear from the outset that I believe that the way our country’s leaders choose to prioritize economic growth and the inherent geographical expansion and transformation of cities and towns that goes along with that growth is — or at least should be — a nonpartisan, apolitical issue.

    However, as one acknowledges the simple fact that each party in our two-party system approaches spending and budgets different types of projects/programs differently, the unavoidable partisanship and politics of the issue comes to the fore, and should motivate ALL citizens, especially bike advocates (again, on the left and right) to petition their congress people and raise awareness of the issues important to them.

    Let me cite just a few of the Republicans’ core ideological beliefs to demonstrate how energized against them the bicycling community should be:

    (1) Republicans are generally skeptical about human-induced global warming and general opposition to pursuing alternative fuels and modes of transit.

    (2) Republicans are generally against most government regulation, including environmental regulation and the regulation, via zoning mechanisms, of land-use. (Look again at the budget of new Florida governor, Rick Scott (Republican).)

    (3) Republicans are generally against government spending and the taxes levied in order to pay for public services (schools, police and fire, utilities, streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, etc., etc.) (Again look at Rick Scott (R); look at his new budget!)

    (4) Republicans are pro-growth, pro-expansion of the private sector, including large real estate developers who are the most responsible for residential sprawl on the peripheries of urban cores, a geographical pattern of expansion that is in direct contradiction to the types of dense, bicycle-friendly communities bike advocates are pushing for. This goes hand-in-hand with the Republican-imposed limitations on local governments’ capacities to restrict certain types of land development. (Think about the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in Miami-Dade County – which type of politicians try to maintain this zoning mechanism, and which try to rescind it?)

    The underlying point is that Republicans are generally opposed to the private sector and advocate most strongly for the private sector (private business people) to move our country forward.

    You’re absolutely right; I’m sure those more than 1,000 bicycle shops throughout Florida are not mostly owned by Democrats. Quite the contrary, I’m confident that most are run by small-business owners who vote Republican.

    Why do they vote Republican? Because the Republicans grant them tax breaks and make it less costly to run their businesses.

    I also believe in the power of the private sector to fuel economic growth. I don’t, however, see private business owners building schools or sidewalks, or setting-up water services, or striping bike lanes or sharrows? That’s what government is there for – for the welfare of the public, not the private-sector motive of profit-making.

    Bicycling issues to me are issues of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. These issues should be trans-partisan. The reality is that they’re not because politicians hold the purse strings and set the public-spending agenda. Republicans are ideologically opposed to the type of agenda that bicycle advocates are pushing.

    Bicycle advocates need to work harder to help shift the ideological base of the Republicans – that’s the only hope Republicans can offer: a redefinition of their core beliefs.

  • Kathryn-

    I think you have a good way of explaining the issue to appeal to Republicans-after all, cycling shouldn’t be partisan–everyone bikes. I think there has been a perception in many Republicans’ minds that it’s only for urban folks or that they need to be against anything environmentally friendly to stand the party line, but that isn’t true. Cycling helps all neighborhoods, all folks from rich to poor, of all races, backgrounds stay healthy and get around. It also doesn’t require as much money to build out a bike network, as you mentioned, which totally fits with conservative values. Good job for putting this out there!

  • “A Republican Congress forces bicycling advocates to improve their message, it empowers Republicans who bicycle to take a stronger role in the active transportation advocacy movement.”

    I applaud the effort to reach out to Republicans, but I am dubious about the results. You might as well say that a Republican congress is good for clean energy, because it

    “forces clean energy advocates to improve their message, it empowers Republicans who have solar cells on their roofs to take a stronger role in the energy advocacy movement.”

    And you could probably find a Republican to quote saying ““roof-top solar energy is about freedom, business and preserving small-town America,” as you did for bicycling.

    Unfortunately, Republicans like that are rare. When push comes to shove, most care more about Koch and Exxon than about freedom and small-town America.

  • kayvaan

    Also – republicans should embrace variable-rate congestion-pricing as it’s a free-market solution, right?

  • Erica

    Actually, some conservative thinkers do embrace congestion-pricing as a free-market solution. The trouble is that in order to support any kind of solution at all, free-market or not, one must first admit there’s a problem. And many Republicans have a reflexive impulse to deny the very existence of market externalities, even when they’re sitting in the middle of a ten-mile traffic jam sucking down fumes.

  • An honest small government approach at the national level that nixed spending on new and widened highways that make traffic faster and encourage more driving and that nixed programs like the mortgage interest deduction contribute to sprawl would probably be a greater benefit to bike/ped, but unfortunately most conservative politicians seem to overlook or justify road spending even as they take the machete to everything else. Some conservatives speak up against the MID but few of them are in office.

    I hold out hope that we can change/nudge that. It might require changing our arguments. Maybe we can say either way is fine. You can cut 90% of the bike budget as long as you also cut 90% of the road budget. Just give us parity. Maybe we can say it’s fine if you only want to spend fuel tax on drivers as long as you include every local street in that calculation and not just highways.

    The Republican party also has a serious federalism (subsidiarity) problem. Personally, I basically think many “left” policies should be implemented at the state and local level and more fiscally conservative policies at the federal level, but politicians generally move up the food chain starting from local so it’s hard for them to justify different policies at different levels of government and maintain their image in this oversimplified political environment.

  • Sonia

    Great piece Kathryn. You present an interesting argument that’s appealing to the Republican lead Congress. It certainly makes economic sense to develop or support bicycle legislation, but there still needs to be immediate return for Reps to bite the bait & unfortunately they see bicycling measures revolved around “planning, design, infrastructure” which means “long term investments” and that doesn’t seem to be the concern for this congress or the American ideology in general.

    Plus, the heavy hitters are still the car industries and oil companies, they have the $ to entice their reps. Period.

    I agree that there should be some distinction and perhaps separation from the standard liberal representation from bicycle enthusiasts or lobbyists, (unfortunately) especially as Congress is trying to cut EPA funding, so isolating oneself from the environmental connection might be to the cyclists’
    advantage. Sad, but true. Finding Republican champions and maximizing or screaming out their support could be a strong advocacy method.

    It’s great to see Florida in the discussion. A state that is beautiful almost year round to have people bicycling all over. But strangely enough, that’s not the case. Yet again, those cold countries you mentioned seem to have figured it out & are willing to work with the miserable climate to design or restructure their cities to accommodate for cycling. Thank you for your piece. I hope you continue to write more.

  • kayvaan

    I agree, Sonia – the impact of the influence of car and oil lobbies cannot be ignored.

  • Tom Bowden

    Let’s get real – If you think that Republicans all think alike, and that only Republicans are influenced by lobbyists and money and big companies, you need to look at the corporate political contributions and admit that the big companies give big dollars to BOTH parties. You don’t really think that they give money to Democrats just to be fair and even-handed do you? I will stipulate that much of the rhetoric of today’s Republican party is simple-minded and offensive to anyone with more than two brain cells, but even so, they have no monopoly on pandering and polarization of the issues. What bothers me about the typical “Left gooood – Right BAAAAD!” line of argument is that critics of Republicans and conservatives seem so blind to their own bias, and the often disastrous results that come from a mindset that assumes that government is always good, and everything can be fixed by ever more detailed laws and regulations. This overlooks the undeniable truth that all too many laws and regulations have unintended consequences, sometimes disastrous, when the private sector simply reacts rationally to the system of incentives that legislative solutions create. The suburban sprawl that someone blamed on developers would not be possible without the active cooperation of government officials of both parties at all levels, who distribute highway dollars, levy taxes, and award tax abatements, all in the name of enlightened development. Would we have the same culture of the automobile if administrations beginning with Eisenhower, through Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, W and now Obama had not continued to hand out federal highway dollars with one eye on the electoral college and another on the automobile industry, including management AND union votes? How do you know that the free market would not have ultimately favored bicycles? Maybe high speed rail would have thrived if not for the huge subsidies to the airline industry, both directly and via the trillions of dollars spent on the defense aerospace industry, from both democratic and republican congresses and administrations. I am certainly not claiming that Republicans and conservatives have all the answers – my gripe is just that the other side really seems to think it DOES have all the answers and that anyone who disagrees is evil, mentally impaired or both. Let’s talk about the issues themselves, not just engage in self-serving characterizations of anyone who disagrees with your version of self-evident truth.
    I for one really enjoyed and was encouraged by what I saw and heard at the LAB National Bike Summit last week, and apparently I am not alone, either in my own party, or the other one.

  • Kathryn Reid Moore

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments. Tom hit the nail on the head. Many, many bicycling advocates are Republicans so there is no reason why the Republican Party cannot step up and seize bicycling as a priority. Bicycling advocacy risks losing opportunities or missing good ideas when it denies space to leaders like Tom – or any of the countless Republicans who participated in the Bike Summit, for example.

    Bicycling needs more than ‘yes’ votes, it needs champions. We need more innovative ideas, even more inclusive messaging, new solutions. We need Republicans.

  • Nancy Stimson

    I really appreciate this article! We all want the same things, but for different reasons. Cycling advocates might be able to model what it looks like to “reach across the aisle” and actually learn how to talk to each other, appeal to one another in the “other’s” language. THANK YOU!

  • Brit Harvey

    Republicans, even more than Democrats, are highly selective in applying their professed values. If Republicans really believed in free markets, they would read Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking, and put an end to socialized parking. If they really believed in free markets, they would require utilities to buy insurance for their nuclear electricity plants, rather than socializing the risk, as is currently the case. If Republicans really believed in deregulation, they would end the “war on drugs”, since prohibition is obviously the most intrusive form of regulation. If they really believed in small government they would cut the military budget and stop funding programs that even the Pentagon doesn’t want. If Republicans really believed in balanced budgets, they wouldn’t have run up the massive deficits, as was done by Reagan and both Bushes. If Republicans really believed in small government and free markets, they would stop subsidizing the economically unjustified logging and grazing that now occur in many western states. I could go on and on. What Republicans, and to a slightly lesser degree Democrats, really believe in is serving wealthy interests that will bribe them with campaign contributions and high-paying “jobs”/lobbying contracts after they quit Washington. Unfortunately, bikes are inexpensive, so they don’t constitute a sufficiently wealthy industry to offer much in the way of bribes. $400 million in Florida? This is too small to even rate a seat at the table, no less influence anything in DC. It is currently impossible to get anything done in DC without buy in from whatever powerful industry group is impacted. When it comes to transportation, bikes are an afterthought, if that. So yes, if you are in the top 0.1% in income/wealth, the Republican majority in the house is a great thing. If you want a safer country for bicycling, it is bad news.

  • john

    Many of my Republican friends enjoy recreational cycling and group rides but laugh at the idea that bikes are a legitimate form of daily transportation.

  • mark vallianatos

    It’s good to build broad coalitions to achieve specific policy objectives.

    It’s naive and dangerous to think that republican control will improve cycling or streets. The modern republican party is an identity based movement of old, wealthy, white surburban and rural dwellers who are desperately clinging to a fading exurban order of patriarchy, white supremacy, car-dominated landscapes, privatized public space, upward transfers or wealth, and the right to pollute as an essential part of the american way.

    I want a stronger bike movement and republicans are welcome but I’m not going to throw workers, youth, the uninsured, immigrants, low income people, and the natural world under my bike wheels to praise their oligarchical, anti-science ideology.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If Republicans thought about it, if they wanted to be the party of individual self reliance and personal responsiblity for onoe’s own health and mobility, they would want to be the party of bicycles.

    Bicycle transportation should be much easier for Republicans to support than mass transit, which may be economically efficient but is also operated by unionized Democrats and limited to areas where people tend to vote Democratic.

    The problem is, most Republicans (like most Democrats) are Republicans only on a “people like us” vs. “people like them” basis. And they don’t think about it.

  • Glenn

    Choice, personal responsibility, self reliance, efficient, cost effective, low government regulation, etc. All conservative ways to describe biking.

    The main problem with biking that conservatives seem to have with cycling is that it isn’t mainstream, it’s alternative…ah the quest for freedom yet conformity is the essential contradiction in modern conservative movement.

  • Today’s Q Poll showing that NY Democrats support the city’s bike lanes by 59% to 35% while NY Republicans oppose them by the same exact ratio shows that this is an uphill battle. Yet there really shouldn’t be an ideological divide, not that party affiliation necessarily has anything to do with ideology.

  • Just remember that the conservative movement, like the liberal movement is not monolithic. That’s the essential failing of perception of the “other”. If “only” 30% of conservative support cycling infrastructure then capture them.

  • Suzanne

    “[I]t is always better to talk about providing transportation choices (freedom) instead of “alternatives” (elitism).”

    Huh? Why does this sound like mere semantics to me? Either that or rhetoric. It sounds like “alternative” is just a hot-button word that brings to conservative minds “dirty hippie” (or maybe dirty hiptser) despite the fact that it actually means the same thing exact thing as “having choices.” Or am I missing something?

    Also:

    “Bicycling’s most vocal advocates have been largely “blue” over the last ten years, and their rhetoric has shown it… consider Amsterdam and Copenhagen as models.”

    WTF??! Why does it get conservatives’ panties in a twist when someone suggests that we DON’T know the answer to every goddam thing? Or is being an obnoxious fat head a Republican value? It reminds me of a co-worker who started ranting about how Americans are the wonderful-est, kindest people in the WHOLE WORLD and we have the BIGGEST HEARTS!!! Why do these people have to be the BEST!11!!!1!!!!! Why can’t we just all of us learn best practices from each other and get over ourselves?

  • Tom Bowden

    Thanks for the compliment Kathryn – anything I can do to advance the dialog is time well spent in my book. It’s a pity though that the monolithic all or nothing characterizations are so casually and smugly tossed back and forth – by both sides. Apparently, in this day and age, it’s not PC to generalize about people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic status or disability, but personal political belief systems are fair game. If everyone who so confidently pronounces statements like “Republicans are all interested in only …..” or “Democrats all seem to think…..” would do a little thought exercise and replace the words “Republicans” or “Democrats” with some protected class – e.g. Irish, Italian, Black, Gay, Midget, Dwarf – whatever – just imagine the howls of self-righteous politically correct outrage that would ensue. But I am a staunch believer that the First Amendment actually means something, and I can happily endure whatever generalizations people want to throw at me, as a Republican, conservative white anglo-saxon protestant male – if that is the cost of maintaining true freedom of expression – which presumes freedom of thought, and the freedom to be wrong or to change one’s mind. And I will continue to try to restrain myself whenever I feel compelled to hurl the same kind of drivel back across the net. If either “side” had a monopoly, or even a significant advantage on absolute truth or wisdom, the debate would have been settled long ago.

  • Erica

    Tom, I agree with much of what you say about not demonizing those who disagree with us. However, I think it’s telling that many of my conservative friends have moved away from even calling themselves Republicans these days. The party has been captured by the lunatic, anti-science fringe. I understand the idea of remaining in the party in order to change it, and sure, I don’t agree with every single part of the Democratic platform, but when the House Republicans can pass a resolution actually *denying scientific findings* because they don’t want to act on climate change, it is no longer about policy disagreements, it’s about basic respect for reason and data.

    I think it’s great that individual conservatives are speaking up for bicycling, but unfortunately I have very little hope that the Republican Party in the era of Sarah Palin will follow suit.

  • Ted

    Fantastic post and discussion. I linked to this post from Commute by Bike today. Here are my thoughts:

    What I find refreshing about [Kathryn’s] perspective is that it sounds so realistic–unlike the selective libertarianism of some on the right (e.g. Tea Party types) who really don’t like the Federal funding that they don’t like. Hell, aren’t we all selective libertarians? I don’t like the Federal funding that I don’t like either.

    A pure libertarian wouldn’t want Federal spending on anything other than defense–if that. I respect that position for its philosophical consistency, but it’s wildly Utopian and does not reflect the American political reality.

    The reality is that this Congress will have to pass a transportation bill. It will largely be car-centric. Just how car-centric it will be will likely depend on the voices from the rational right–such as Moore’s–being heard.

  • Tom Bowden

    Erica – thanks for your vote of support. I will not get into a debate on global warming, but I will caution you to remember these two quotes:

    “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” Andre Gide
    “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” Richard Feynman

    You can take those any way you want, but to me, they elegantly capture what is so often forgotten – doubt, not certainty, is the soul of science. Right or wrong, when either side proclaims certainty – they have abandoned science and ventured into the realm of faith.

  • Erica

    Tom, I think an important distinction needs to be made between the duty of scientists, and the duty of policymakers.

    As you correctly say, there is no such thing as absolute scientific certainty – even about gravity or evolution, though I hope we agree that some theories are better supported by the evidence than others – and scientists have a duty to always be skeptical and strive towards more perfect knowledge.

    Policymakers, on the other hand, have a different duty – to make decisions based on the best available evidence at the time. If they waited for perfect knowledge, no action would ever be possible, since (as we agree) such a thing is impossible in science. It’s a different standard of proof – “clear and convincing evidence” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It would be wrong, for example, for policymakers to deny NIH funding on the grounds that the germ theory of disease is not 100% certain. Or for a general on the battlefield to wait until he was absolutely sure where the enemy is coming from in order to begin preparations.

    For this reason, EPA’s endangerment finding nowhere mentions “certainty”, it mentions the overwhelming preponderance of scientific evidence. Sure, there’s an outside chance the vast majority of the world’s experts are wrong, just as there’s an outside chance the theory of evolution is wrong. But both of those chances are small enough that an ethical policymaker ought not to place high-stakes bets on them.

  • “This helped motivate the new Republican chair of the Transportation Committee, Rep. John Mica, to concede bicycles’ right to the road and promise a place for this mode in a new transportation bill.”

    Did he mean that bicyclists have the right to use travel lanes the same as other drivers? Or did he mean that bicyclists have a right to the edge of the road or separate facilities, out of the way of faster and, presumably, more important traffic?

    I find it interesting that proponents of bicyclists as drivers of vehicles are the most conservative and and untrusting of government types I know, while proponents of separate facilities are some of the most liberal.

  • Tom Bowden

    Erica I agree completely. All i am saying is that when policy makers start talking about scientific certainty based on consensus, everyone should stop and remember those two quotes, whatever the issue.

  • My beloved father, the late Ray Lynch, was a staunch GOP leader in our small Illinois town. He could easily have echoed those words: “Bicycling is about freedom, business and preserving small-town America.” As an example, I recall his fixing up a bicycle for a Grit newspaper delivery boy to help him succeed in the business the boy’s family so depended on–prior to that, the boy walked to Mt. Pulaski from near the town of Lincoln, ten miles away.

    From those roots I created the HER Helmet Thursdays project, launched in Monterey County. What I love about the project, besides it getting more visitors and locals to bike here, is that it joins passions for environmental preservation with passions for economic preservation–whether or not those passions comingle in the same person.

    This ecology-economy sustainability project has no political identity–just as bicycling does not.

    Thanks for sharing this report.

  • Kathryn Reid Moore

    @Bob – Very good question; I wish I knew the answer.
    @Ted – Thank you for your comments and cross-post.
    @Tom, Erica and Mari: your dialogue and remarks fulfill the hope that motivated this piece. This is not about reaching across the aisle but rather empowering the Republicans within the movement to speak out and be real champions for bicycle transportation. Even those who drive to where they train benefit from safer roads, smoother asphalt and more accessible and better connected routes. (Of course, I concede the inherent optimism in that statement but it’s not nearly the challenge that too many see it to be.)

  • Jack Love

    Hmm! I never thought of bicycles and riding as a “Republican” or “Democrat” thing. It’s a healthy way to go and it gets me out of the car.

  • Angel

    Agreed Kathryn. It’s great to see an optimistic and collaborative view of cycling which calls for all voices to be heard (both sides of the aisle and in the middle). Thanks Kathryn.

  • LazyReader

    True, republicans favor private business. Either they are one or they used to be before they took public office. Let us not bash private industry, lets face it, they’re good. Because they give us what we want. We want low density, we want sprawl. If we want high density, well theres a market for that; not nearly as high as the suburban sector. We can build for the market that likes that. Infact many of these huge planned communities have high density commercial and apartment buildings. This is not new urbanism either, these are private companies paying out of pocket for the land, construction, infrastructure, wiring, pipes, lighting, sidewalks, hiking trails, parks, and housing. In industries where they’re forced to compete, consumers win. Prices tend to decline.

    We see cities all over the country with construction of mid to high rise towers to attract more residents but that never panned out even when the economy was better. High density only makes sense in places where land was really expensive to begin with.

    http://www.luxist.com/2009/07/31/alone-in-a-32-story-condo-tower-one-family-wants-out/

  • tom

    Tom Bowden: Since you exclude age, consciously or not, from among the characteristics that it would not be politically correct to generalize about, one might assume you are in agreement with all those who think it fair game to take shots on this blog at those gray-headed PPW bike lanes opponents(use Search above for sampling). Would you care to comment, or, advance the dialog?

  • LazyReader

    Never get into heated arguments on the internet. It’s like being in the special Olympics; You can win, but your still retarded.

  • Tom Bowden

    tom

    Not sure what you mean by gray-headed PPW bike lanes, but I am old enough to have an AARP card and I don’t believe in discriminating based on age.

  • john

    “It’s crazy. Gibson Dunn is the law firm that represented George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore in 2000. Now they’re working to get rid of a bike lane. Think about that.” Have you?

  • Clutch J

    That’s a picture of Ronnie Reagan! That would actually be worth including is some of our advocacy efforts, especially if we could track down a pro-bicycling quote from him.

    It was under Governor Reagan in the mid-1970s that the first pro-bicycling reforms* were launched within the California Department of Transportation.

    * including the establishment of the first (and still controversial) bikeways standards and less contentious matters such as dedicated personnel, information and education, etc.

  • Tom Bowden

    Here is my response to an article just published on a blog that I generally respect, Bacon’s Rebellion. The author, Bob Poole, is described as a national transportation expert. I take him to task in response to his characterization of “Safe Routes to School” and “Complete Streets” as “nonsense.” Note that in doing so, I stayed away from the typical issues that he might anticipate in the blowback his article deserves. Feel free to chime in there with more comments, and use it as an exercise in making the necessary points without overt political rhetoric. The article is found at:

    http://baconsrebellion.com/2011/03/21/do-roads-pay-for-themselves/comment-page-1/#comment-26722

    Bob
    I will stipulate that you have the numbers about right, as far as you go with them. But how does it follow that “Safe Routes to School” and “Complete Streets” are nonsense? Even if the automobile.users (of which I am one) literally pay every last dime that goes into road construction of all kinds, why does that mean that roads should be designed in ways that endanger other legitimate users? If I pay my taxes (gas, income, school, sales tax…….) and thereby cover my share of the road expense, shouldn’t I have something to say about how those roads are designed? Is there any reason on earth why, in light of the ever increasing use of cars for even the most trivial trips, and in light of the rampant distracted driver problem, that streets should NOT be designed with the safety of other legitimate uses and users, as well as the safety of by bystanders, such as pedestrians on sidewalks, and those who most cross the street to get where they are going. Your cavalier comment, taken to its (il)logical conclusion, seems to suggest that because cars allegedly pay for road construction, roads should be designed not only for the exclusive use of cars, but even with reckless disregard for the safety of others generally. It’s not as if automobiles don’t have other costs too – e.g. 30-50K fatalities/year in this country alone. And then of course, there is the environmental question. I am not an acolyte of the religion of global warming, but cars generate many real pollutants (besides CO2 which is not a pollutant, whatever the EPA might think). And one final thought – keep in mind that the first modern paved roads in this country and many others, were constructed and improved at the instance of cyclists.

  • sto do

    This article is a great theorhetical exercise and is intellectually stimulating. However, basing an argument on the premise that the actions of republicans are motivated by ideology rather than their wealthy supporters, who profit from the current single-occupant-vehicle economy, is naive. The republican ideals, like many other polictical ideals, are crafted for the moment and will change to represent the desires of a small percentage of powerful people. It may be a waste of time to drag biking into this rhetorical swamp.

  • Kathryn Reid Moore

    @ Sto do: In my experience, there are many wealthy Republican supporters who ride, profit from or just love bicycles. Most of them won’t stand up as long as we are shooting blindly in their direction.

  • Kathryn Reid Moore

    @ Sto do: In my experience, there are many wealthy Republican supporters who ride, profit from or just love bicycles. Most of them won’t stand up as long as we are shooting blindly in their direction.

  • Education.
    It’s cost effective. It’s revenue neutral. It’s good for the soul, good for the adult in all of us.
    Time to end dependence on government. Let’s answer the childish American whiner’s lament– so good for Bicycling magazine’s circulation– “there’s no safe place to ride.”
    Let’s answer with Grow UP. Ride like a responsible adult. Stop listening to your daddy’s admonition, “those cars are out to get you,” with a bold, “Not if I can help it.”
    Bicycling is not a Sport. Spread the word– bicycling is an Activity like driving a car is an activity. It can be a sport if it’s performed on a closed course with qualified (pampered and drugged up) athletes. But on public right of way with other road users, it’s an act of transportation that requires adult behavior.
    I call BS to the bicycle industry’s sychophantic obsession with Lance, et. al. who only confirm for Americans that they’re too weak, too ignorant, to scared to bicycle on the streets– because they don’t measure up to the Lances and Floyds that Trek and Specialized prop up before us.
    These and other bike companies, and the “advocates” they fund fuel dependence on bike lanes, bike trails– properly called Shared Use Paths, on which bicyclists have the last and least rights of all other users– and other dangerous and untested so called “facilities” that only feed America’s motorhead belief that responsible bicyclists must never, ever venture out onto public roadways.
    Why? Because bicycles are toys. And toys are for children. And to bicycle is to be, and be treated as, a child. Jim Oberstar, god bless him, was a master of milking money from competing user groups. He created a whole new viable political user group– the bicycle lobby– and in so doing a new source of political funding for himself. He put the bike biz and bicyclists on the public radar. Thanks for that, Jim.
    But he lured the whole industry into woozy inside-the-Beltway self importance where just sitting with a Jr. Staffer in a Senator’s office feels like effective advocacy. It ain’t.
    We can come home, to our cities, where real policy is made.
    Dont’ redesign the street, change the culture. Get to know the vehicle code. Teach some middle schoolers. Talk to city council. Stop tolerating drunk and distracted drivers. Tell your club mates to Stop at the damn signs, stop blowing the red lights. Ride left, take a lane, stay out of the door zone. Nod and say “thank you” to the stupid s**t who tells you to ride on the sidewalk and move a little farther out into the lane as you do it.
    There’s no watershed between “bike friendly” and “not.” We’re in a time of transition where everyone’s position on both sides of the issue are changing. Put a friend on a bike. Go for a ride. It’s free. It’s freedom. It’s what bicycling is all about.

  • plannergirl

    Republican congress is good for bike advocates because pretty soon most of us won’t be able to afford cars or gasoline.

  • You sure put it really well. Good to read another one of your excellent pieces, Kathryn. 

  • Chris G.

    Still think a Republican Congress is good for Bike/Ped?  Pfft!

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