All over the country, cities are taking out car lanes and turning them into bike lanes. Based on the changes we’re making, you’d think the city streets were running red with the blood of mangled bikers.
Partly motivated by creating safer conditions for bikers, partly motivated by reducing the incentive to drive your car, local politicians are deciding that’s what’s best for their towns and cities.
But I think we’re losing sight of the politician/citizen dynamic. Lest anyone forget, politicians are hired by citizens. They report to us. We are the boss. Under our republican form of government, we hire politicians, through elections, to represent our wishes and interests. (However much people say it, our system is not a democracy.)
So, when politicians keep gutting driving lanes in favor of bike lanes, who are they representing? By making it more difficult and uncomfortable to drive, it seems they’re working against the best interests of their bosses.
And for whom? The bike lobby? It’s not uncommon for cities to have fairly powerful biking advocate groups who try to influence elections. But if bikers are going to have their way, then they should be willing to make some concessions:
- Bikers who experience accidents in these new bike lanes should be required to get medical attention from bike ambulances. If biking is so much safer and better for the environment, then so would be bike ambulances. They can bike up with their rolling stretcher attached to the back and cart away the injured biker. (Besides, it’s not like a traditional ambulance could get to them through all the traffic.)
- Those who use the bike lanes should be taxed for them. Instead of car drivers picking up the tab for something they decidedly don’t want, there should be strongly enforced toll booths in bike lanes. (Oregon charges a bike sales tax.) Considering how many bikers there are in relation to the cost of building them their own roadway, I suspect the toll would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 per stop. (But that’s just a guess…)
- The toll money from bike lanes should help pay for strict enforcement of traffic laws, which bikers routinely, and often smugly, ignore.
Biking is supposed to be healthier for the biker and better for the planet. But by reducing drivable automobile lanes, there are more cars sitting and idling, which means more pollution. And with bikers breathing deeper than pedestrians, they get a good deep breath of smog with every inhale.
For whatever reason, there’s not much public outcry against bike lanes, but perhaps that is changing. Lawrence Solomon, of the Financial Post, wrote an excellent article about this, and I think it’s worth sharing.
I know we all feel good about the idea of biking to work, but as is increasingly the case in this country, the reality is not consistent with our wishes.