Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Panic as US transportation secretary acknowledges existence of cycling


WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.

LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling – and walking, too – the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican congressman quietly announced the "sea change" in transportation policy last month.

"This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized," he wrote in his government blog.

Not so fast, say some conservatives and industries dependent on trucking. A manufacturers' blog called the policy "nonsensical." One congressman suggested LaHood was on drugs.

The new policy is an extension of the Obama administration's livability initiative, which regards the creation of alternatives to driving – buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains, as well as biking and walking – as central to solving the nation's transportation woes.

Source. Nothing shocking here; no plans to ban cars, just no more unduly favouring them over bikes:
"It didn't seem that controversial to me," he wrote in a second blog item. "After all, I didn't say they should have the only voice. Just a voice."
Nonetheless, the usual suspects are saying crazy things in response:

The National Association of Manufacturers' blog,, called the policy "dumb and irresponsible."

"LaHood's pedal parity is nonsensical for a modern industrial nation," said the blog. "We don't call it sacrilege, but radical is a fair description. It is indeed a sea change in federal transportation policy that could have profound implications for the U.S. economy and the 80 percent of freight that moves by truck."

More of this nonsense can be found at's own site.Given that bikes and trucks serve entirely different purposes, and thus aren't in competition with each other, this is a pretty strange thing to say. What, exactly, are they afraid of? Perhaps a clue can be gained by something a friend of mine attributes to an economics professor at the U of M -- "People with cars buy more stuff". So, do they fear that if things are favourable enough for bikes and public transit that fewer people need cars, consumer culture will decline and the manufacturers will suffer? Or do they take the Limbaughs and Becks of the world seriously, and think that this is all part of some nefarious plot?


unclebob said...

And we could probably solve our housing issues by promoting the fashion and livability of caves

nitroglycol said...

I don't think so. There aren't enough caves for that.

Thing is, neither Mr. LaHood nor myself is advocating using the bicycle for everything. For many purposes (short to medium distances, where you don't have a whole lot to carry), the bicycle is the best means of transportation available. And given its other advantages (no fossil fuels burned, good for your health as long as you don't get run over, etc) it would be foolish not to encourage its use where appropriate.