Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued new rules for bike- and walkways and announced at the National Bike Summit that “This Is the End of Favoring Motorized Transportation at the Expense of Non-Motorized.” This led to more critical remarks from the BoydGroup, an aviation consulting firm that previously criticized LaHood for “advising” airlines not to oppose high-speed rail.
LaHood’s dichotomy between motorized and non-motorized transportation is politically astute but historically inaccurate. For most of the last century — roughly 1920 through 1990 — our institutions favored forms of transportation that paid for themselves as opposed to those that required huge subsidies. Those were primarily highways, aviation, and rail freight.
Fortunately for cyclists, most roads can accommodate both motor vehicles and bicycles. While a few motorists are impolite to cyclists, most are not, and as a cyclist I’ve rarely felt discriminated against by state or local road designers.
In my home state of Oregon, freeways outside the city of Portland are open to bicycles, and I’ve gone hundreds of miles on I-5 and I-84. But even where freeways are closed to cycling, they are the ultimate pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly device as they draw hundreds of thousands of vehicles off of city streets.
The Antiplanner has nothing against designing roads to provide for cycling and walking. But LaHood’s implication that we should spend billions of dollars of highway user fees building a whole new network of bike routes doesn’t make sense. Until bicycles pay their own way, they should be happy to share the road with automobiles.