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Should Bikes And Cars Be Treated Equally? pt. 2

While Andy was drafting his first response to the question “Should Bikes And Cars Be Treated Equally?” the President of the American Trucking Associations wrote the following (click for full version):


I’m in full agreement with the National Association of Manufacturers, who said on their Shopfloor blog last week that “treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe.” Such a policy will negate any effort the Administration has made to create jobs and will hinder the movement of our nation’s goods. As we work to emerge from these difficult economic times, we need policies that promote the safe, efficient movement of goods. The Administration’s major policy revision will be particularly detrimental if it diverts Highway Trust Fund dollars from critical expansion and repair projects that will help use meet national goals.

Here’s Andy’s response:

“I’ve been called many things as I ride to and from work every day in our nation’s capital, but a harbinger of economic catastrophe…now that’s a first!

As I think back to major economic catastrophes of the last 40 years, I am having a hard time finding any tell-tale trace of bicycle tire tracks. On the contrary, my recollection of significant recent economic crises is that they are invariably caused by our predeliction for foreign oil – the 1973/74 oil embargo; 1988 oil crisis; 2008 gas price increases quickly followed by the mortgage and foreclosure crisis that piled unsustainable housing costs on top of budget-busting suburban commuting costs.

In terms of economic competitiveness, I would suggest that the crippling – and rapidly rising – health care costs associated with physical inactivity and obesity among the US workforce is a crisis worth worrying about. This adds significantly to the cost of everything produced here in the United States, making us less competitive abroad. Getting people moving through daily physical activity is a national priority – enabling people to bike and walk as part of everyday routines is a remarkably cost-effective way of achieving that goal, and surely something that manufacturers and employers would be behind 100 percent. The fact that it would also reduce congestion and increase discretionary spending on goods and services seems like a pretty good deal for the business community.

Keith Laughlin referred to the recently introduced Active Community Transportation Act, which would provide a major boost to cities in completing networks and programs to encourage and enable people to walk and ride for everyday transportation. The cost of the program is just 0.5% of the estimated price tag of the next surface transportation bill – and an amount similar to bridge program funds left on the table by state DOTs for recent rescissions – and would result in voluntary and much needed shifts in mode choice.

Economic calamity is regularly predicted to follow highway improvements that favor the creation of more livable communities. Closing two blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House to motor vehicle traffic was going to bring the nation’s capital to its knees. Opening Times Square in New York City to pedestrians last year was presaged by similarly dire predictions of chaos. Removing the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco after the 1989 earthquake has hardly stunted the growth of vibrant waterfront development and economic activity.

Let me be clear. We need roads; we need highways. We need cars and trucks. But they don’t work for everything and everyone all the time. We need choice, we need alternatives, we need balance. That’s what the Secretary’s new policy gives us a chance to achieve. The most vibrant, livable communities in the world – which also happen to be economic powerhouses – are those in which there is an equitable and rational balance between car, truck, transit, bike and walk modes. That’s a vision we need to achieve together.”

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