This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Again the question: if we build it, will they come?

The subject keeps coming up all around and I can't avoid talking about it once in a while. So many people believe that building infrastructure for cycling will automatically increase bike use in this country and I don't think so.  Here in Michigan, the legislature has passed what they call the "Complete Streets Initiative."  While not being a piece of legislation with enforcement "teeth," it forces road commissions and the DOT to consider all forms of transportation rather than just autos when planning any changes or improvements.  In some areas this will mean accommodating horse and buggy (Amish) traffic as well as pedestrian and bicycles.  Undoubtedly we will see more of this

in the future and that's fine.  Where I live the cities of Portage and Kalamazoo have put bike lanes where ever they fit so we are way ahead of that game.  Is there a larger amount of bike commuting and traffic compared to say Grand Rapids or Lansing?  I don't see it.  Those of us who ride like it, we feel better about riding with the increased awareness and designated room on the road.  Maybe we ride more often because of it, maybe not.
   There is also a large scale plan to build a network of MUP's not only in the cities, but throughout the state.  Those are nice also, but, as I found a week or so ago, they are frequented more by local  walkers than cyclists.
And although the intercity paths are really nice in some cases, they are really more useful as recreation for rural area residents than they are for transportation.  Take a close look at this map of the Muskatawa trail north of Grand Rapids Michigan.

While the roads in the area are set on a classic 1 mile grid pattern, the trail (following the right of way for high tension power lines) cuts a diagonal across that grid for most of it's length.  That creates new, intersections ever 1/4-1/2 mile where a cyclist must stop because the cross traffic has a 55mph speed limit, and most of those intersection are blind from overgrown shrubbery which is not maintained. While intended to provide a safe non-motorized corridor of travel between Grand Rapids and Muskegon, I can tell you from experience that I was safer on the street.
   I don't see these measures increasing bicycle usage in this country.  People point to places like Copenhagen where thousands use bikes everyday to commute.

But their government has for years made auto usage prohibitively expensive by taxing it.  I've been told there is a surtax of 50-150% on new car purchases.  Compare that to the way our own government will do virtually anything to subsidized the industry.  Our fuel prices are subsidized in much the same way, last year Exxon-Mobile received a tax rebate from the US while paying 1.5 Billion in taxes abroad. Our gas is cheaper than theirs.  It's no wonder there is better cycling infrastructure in other countries, there is more demand.  It didn't happen the other way around.  I do not see that we will witness an appreciable increase (more than 3-5%) in bike traffic until our government stops making autos artificially inexpensive.

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