Plan to Push Bikes Should Take a Hike
In Massachusetts, we pride ourselves on being a hub for innovation and technology and so it is prudent to question Victorian-era solutions to 21st century problems. As in, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation rolling-out its Bicycle Transportation draft plan aimed at making travel safer and more convenient for cyclists.
The draft plan notes that “In Massachusetts, 52 percent of all trips are three miles or fewer -- a typical biking distance for many people -- and yet 80 percent of those trips are currently made in vehicles. ... This is a statistic that we need to start to change in order to meet our goals for reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions and improving public and community health.”
Maybe true, but one-third of the year also involves snow on the ground. Also, the contention that we are all driving around needlessly is naive and a little insulting. People have errands to do that have little regard for social trends or the latest greenhouse gas concerns.
The plan also touts the benefits of the “Complete Streets” approach to transportation policy and design that “ensures that everyone using streets is safe and feels safe, regardless of age, ability, or mode of travel. In practice, this means considering the needs of and providing safe space for people walking, bicycling, taking transit, or driving, as well as for transporting freight.”
Though utopian in concept, “Complete Streets” has not delivered on its promise of safety. According to Dangerous By Design, a report by Smart Growth America, since 2009 complete streets policies nationwide have risen nearly 10-fold, but pedestrian deaths have also increased.
More than 46,149 Americans were struck and killed by motor vehicles while walking in the 10-year-period ending in 2014. That includes 4,884 deaths in 2014, a 19 percent rise from 2009.
The report laments that “Approximately 44 percent of the state’s households do not own even one bicycle.” Does it ever occur to nanny-state know-it-alls that citizens are well aware of the capabilities of bicycles but have made judgments based on their own situations that peddling on two wheels is not a good fit for them?
The draft plan is heavy on pilot programs, and rife with initiatives to develop plans. Not surprisingly, there are social justice undertones as well. “Certain population groups and communities face greater challenges when it comes to bicycling,” the plan reads. “National data shows that fatality rates are 23 percent -- 30 percent higher for Hispanic and African-American bicyclists than for white bicyclists.”
That, mixed with other data about increased bicycling fatalities and injuries would compel a reasonable person to ask if this wasn’t a plan against more bicycles rather than for.
Technology and the marketplace will ultimately solve the transportation woes of the commonwealth. Progressive social engineering projects, couched in comprehensive government transportation plans, will not.