Friday, September 14, 2007

Round and Round


Robb and I love the fact that we live in Cycling Heaven. Much of the Bay Area is beautifully set up for cyclists. And this is a darn good thing, because if all the people who cycle to work suddenly started driving, the traffic congestion would be abysmal. On any day, half my co-workers cycle to work.

Having traveled in northern Europe, where bikes are ubiquitous, and having been car-less in the American south, where bikes are not welcome, I have the highest regard for any government that makes a commitment to encouraging cycling as a form of commuting.

So I was terribly dismayed to read this article at Salon. Apparently, our nation's Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters concluded that the cause of the recent tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis/Saint Paul was the wasteful use of federal dollars on such things as bike paths and lighthouse repair, which rob our nation of much needed bridge-repair dollars. According to Ms. Peters, projects like bike paths and trails "are really not transportation."

The article that I've linked to says that 60% of the money from federal taxes on gasoline is spent on transportation infrastructure, and 30% is spent on public transportation. So the remaining 10% is allocated to other projects, including infrastructure for bike lanes. In the Bay Area, there really isn't much separation between bike lanes and car lanes; they're all on the same roads.

Quoting the Salon article, "In fact, only about 1.5 percent of federal transportation dollars go to fund bike paths and walking trails. In the meantime, 10 percent of all U.S. trips to work, school and the store occur on bike or foot, and bicyclists and pedestrians account for about 12 percent of annual traffic fatalities, according to the Federal Highway Administration."

And, "It's hard to argue that walking paths and bike trails are robbing federal coffers when states can't even spend all the federal money they've received to repair bridges in the first place. In 2006, state departments of transportation sent back $1 billion in unspent bridge funds to the federal government, according to the Federal Highway Administration."

I can't help but feeling that blaming bike lanes and lighthouses for stealing money away from highway repair is some kind of bizarre diversionary tactic to draw attention away from more serious drains on our nation's cash flow.

Call me crazy, but it seems to me that if our goverment weren't spending two hundred million dollars every single day in Iraq, there might be a bit more money available for bridge maintenance. And bike lanes.


Anonymous said...

Anyone who works for the bush administration is an idiot. Bikers don't pollute the air either, so the repubs probably also think clean air is a bad thing. I've long ago stopped looking for common sense to come from the republican party, so just vote them all out in the new elections and we will be better off for it.

We are very nearly done fixing up the house after 5 1/2 months (and now Gary's Mom and Aunt from England are visiting so the place better look nice!) and so we are looking fowrad to cycling through Gettysburg National Park, 20 miles up the road from us, which is spectacular for bikers, especially in the fall. So I'm gonna bike even more now that apparently it is a renegade horrible money wasting activity!


ArtGekko said...

So she'd rather do away with the bike paths (and increase the cost to all of us of an even more exercise-challenged population) and maintaining the lighthouses (so oil tankers can run aground and foul the environment). Sounds about par for the Republican course!

Now if we had better public transportation here in MN (we have one light rail line that serves a very small portion of the Twin Cities area), traffic wouldn't have been so adversely affected by the bridge collapse. But everyone lives in their suburban bubble and heaven forbid they even consider taking the bus anywhere. The demand is not there, so our legislators aren't wanting to spend the money on it.

The design of the replacement bridge even got bogged down with the debate over whether to include light rail in the plans. You'd think it would be a slam-dunk no-brainer since they're starting from scratch and have the chance to do it right without having to retrofit it to an existing structure. To be honest, I don't really know whether or not it has been included in the plans, as they waffled back and forth about it.

*sigh* at least my husband gets to telecommute 70% of the time! :)


Anonymous said...

Here I thought I was alone in justifying the mishandling of my funds! Hey, if the Gov't can do it and sound 1/2 way plausible why won't the bank buy MY story?? Maybe if I told them I was using a budget approved by the Federal Gov't they'd loan me some more money.....



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