Bikes, Transit and Walking Ahead of Cars?

Sam Staley of the Reason Foundation argues that Ray LaHood's recent statement that bikes and pedestrians will be considered on the same level as cars doesn't mesh with the facts.

Staley, a regular blog contributor on Planetizen, says that "just 4.6 percent of commuters use transit, 2.4 percent walk, and 1.5% using 'Other' (including bicycling)?"

Staley therefore concludes that "LaHood is apparently abandoning all pretense to evidence-based public policy..."

Full Story: U.S. DOT Moves Further Away from Evidence Based Public Policy With Statement on Bicycling



Equality of modes, what a concept

Mr. Staley confuses cause and effect. As Fred Kent noted some time ago, if you build for cars, you get cars. If you build for people, you get people. Having spent all our federal dollars on motor vehicle infrastructure for decades, we should see the current lack of use of other modes as a predictable (and even predicted) effect.
A few facts:
1. Commuting trips are not the only trips, or even most of the trips.
2. When infrastructure is present, people use it. When there is a safe bikeway, more people ride bikes.
3. Given transportation is paid for by everyone (currently none of the Highway Trust Fund money is gas tax or other user fees) then adding sidewalks and bikeways to highway projects seems like a modest enough step towards treating modes equally.

People are rational; they will use the mode that makes sense in terms of time, money, and risk. Given more choices, people will take them.

Michael Lewyn's picture

Evidence of what?

If I understand the blog post correctly, Staley is reasoning: the evidence shows that are more drivers than bicyclists, therefore bicyclists should not be accommodated. I don't see how the latter follows from the former.

Evidence Based = Maintain Status Quo

Mr. Staley's idea of evidence-based public policy seems to be that, if people commute by driving now, it follows that we should only build auto-oriented infrastructure in the future.

If he had used the same reasoning in the 1920s, he would have said: most people use streetcars to commute to work, and no one drives to work on the freeway because there are no freeways yet, therefore all federal transportation funding should go to building streetcars and none to freeways.

If you want evidence-based public policy, you have to look at evidence about costs and benefits, not just at evidence about what people do currently.

Charles Siegel

Brent Toderian's picture

Here in Vancouver BC, our

Here in Vancouver BC, our Transportation Plan long ago set our priorities in this order - walking first, then cycling, then transit, then goods and services movement, and then the single-occupancy vehicle. Cars are not banned, they are simply prioritized last. And the results - frequently named the most livable city in the world, first market to rebound from the downturn and last to be affected by it, and many other success indicators. We are the north-american proof that deprioritizing the car is a winning approach when doing it smartly.

Brent Toderian
Vancouver Director of Planning

When oil money funds "research"

The Reason Foundation may as well move into Exxon-Mobil's headquarters and save on rent. "We've got pleeeenty of oil left!"

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