“A Bicycle Is Not a Transportation Device”

Did you commute by bike this morning? (I’m not at the office yet today, but that’s how I’m going to get there.) If so, you might be surprised to hear that "a bicycle is not a transportation device." Those are the perplexing words of John Cook, a supervisor in Fairfax County, Virginia. 

The FABB Blog (a project of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling) has the story: 

IMG_3461_703398.jpgTry telling these Fairfax County commuters their bikes aren’t "transportation devices." (Photo: FABB Blog)

[A]t a recent Board of Supervisors Transportation Committee meeting, [Cook] said,
"I don’t believe a bicycle is a transportation device. I think it’s a
recreation device. The big problem is people don’t want to ride their
bike in the rain or get sweaty before work."

Supervisor Cook
needs to get out more. Every day people in Fairfax County use bicycles
to get to work, shops, and to run errands. They use bikes to get to
Metro, to libraries, and yes, some even ride to jobs at the Government
Center. Some people don’t want to ride in the rain but many do because
they have few other options. You could ask some of the workers pictured [right] who are receiving free bike lights. They ride in the rain, snow, and darkness to get to jobs around the county.

It’s great to learn that FABB has a lights giveaway program similar to the Los Angeles–based "Ciudad de Luces" one we mentioned a couple of weeks back. But it sounds like it will take more than flashing blinkies for Supervisor Cook to see the bicycles being used for transportation right in front of him. So the FABB Blog is asking its readers to give him a call and let him know that people do ride to get things done.

More from around the network: The National Journal’s Transportation Expert Blog asks if the TIGER grants announced last week should serve as a model for the next surface transportation bill. Louisville’s CART blog has the latest on pending transit cuts in that Kentucky city. And WalkBikeJersey asks if three-foot passing laws might not actually put cyclists in more danger.

8 thoughts on “A Bicycle Is Not a Transportation Device”

  1. Its Both! Cars are recreational and transportation devices! Hence race cars, SUVs, and electrical, wagons etc.. There are almost the same number of types of bikes including street and commuter bikes…

  2. Last year I lost a friend to a horrible bicycling accident when he was killed.
    Had he signaled properly this accident may never have occurred.

    Why turning signals are not a requirement for all bikes, I’ll never understand.
    I purchased mine at safetybikesignals.com.

  3. To many Cooks in the kitchen!
    I’m ashamed to say that I live with my family in Fairfax where apparently my supervisor believes that my kids carry their bicycles to school everyday.
    Enough nonsense Cook start making the roads safe for all ages and all the public!

  4. I sent an email to the Supervisor yesterday, with this as the gist:

    It pains me to read your current comments about the bicycle not being a transportaion device.

    As you can see from this presentation (http://ddot.dc.gov/ddot/frames.asp?doc=/ddot/lib/ddot/information/pedestrian/survey/hhts_2008.pdf), a small portion of workers of Fairfax County (0.3%, down from 0.5% in 1994) do, in fact, ride their bicycles as a form of transportation. For the region, this is a low number, as nearby Arlington County has a 0.8% share (up from 0.5% in 1994, when Arlington and Fairfax were on par). In fact, Fairfax’s bicycle mode share is lower than both the regional median and average, according to the presentation referenced above. As the higher percentage of bicycling in 1994 shows, low levels of bicycling in Fairfax are not a given – there is both a historical precedent and a future capacity for higher mode share for bicycles. Very simply, about 1,628 people ride their bikes to work daily in Fairfax on average, which would account for *rainy* days, too (2008 ACS population estimate for 16+ [representing working age adults] multiplied by 0.3% bike share). In fact, the American Community Survey (ACS) estimates 5,858 workers use “other” means of transportation to get to work in Fairfax every day – other meaning not car, not public transit, not walking, not taxi, not working from home. Furthermore, as a transportation device, bicycles are used in the region for multiple transportation purposes, including work (30% of bike trips), school (13%), shopping/eating out (15%), recreation/social events (20%) according to the study.

    Even if bicycles were not transportation devices, the bike industry brings hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, every year to Virginia, and only jurisdictions that support and enhance bicycling opportunities can reap that benefit. There are many studies on the economic impacts of the bike industry – I’m sure your staff or FABB can you direct to them.

    Fairfax is faced with an important question that affects residents’ commutes, health and even environmental issues – whether or not to support and promote active transportation, such as bicycling. Please consider the impacts of your statements very carefully, as interested parties look to you to set a standard for the transformation of a suburban county into a world-class place to live.

  5. Wow, how narrowsighted, and just plain incorrect John Cook is!

    For starters, the United States Congress, and the President of the United States passed the Bicycle Commuter Act, which was enacted as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (HR 1424). This legislation Amends Section 132(f) of the tax code to include “bicycles” in the definition of transportation that qualifies for tax-free fringe benefits. Additionally, it provides clear incentives for employees to bike to work, which is a cleaner, healthier, more efficient mode of transportation.

    Specifically, it allows employers to offer their employees a tax-exempt transportation fringe benefit of $20 per month for purchasing, maintaining, or storing a bicycle. As of 2008, employers may offer employees tax-exempt benefits of up to $215 per month for parking, or $110 per month for using transit or vanpools. The Bike Commuter Act balances these incentives by extending commuting benefits to bicyclists.

    I can only assume that the citizens and employees of Fairfax County are not being provided access to this lawful program.

    Truly, shame on you John Cook!

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