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.