Embracing Bicycles at Expense of Freight, Jobs, Reality

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was hailed by activists who support more federal funding for bicycling infrastructure for his remarks last week at the National Bike Summit 2010. Unfortunately, in winning points with the bicycle lobby, the Secretary departed from economic reality.

Secretary LaHood reported his Bike Summit comments at his FastLane blog today, “My view from atop the table at the National Bike Summit“:

Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

Reading this jaw-dropping policy announcement, we thought the Secretary had let his enthusiasm get the best of him. Alas, no, his comments were actually reinforced in what he described as a “major policy revision” posted at the Federal Highway Administration website, Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation.”

Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe. If put into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.

On Oct. 29, 2008, National Association of Manufacturers President John Engler testified on the economic stimulus bill at a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Engler stated:

Eighty-percent of our nation’s freight, by value, moves across our nation’s roads, highways, and bridges by truck. The deteriorating condition of our surface transportation infrastructure and the challenges associated with traffic congestion have a negative effect on the manufacturing economy beyond wasted time and fuel. Nearly 20 percent of our small and medium-sized manufacturers recently reported to us in a survey that they risked losing a customer due to bottlenecks and other traffic delays over the past five years.

Pedicabs will not overcome those bottlenecks.

Now normally here we’d put in a statement about how bicycles are great, we need to fund infrastructure for bikes, federal support, blah, blah, blah. And, sure, more power to them. But c’mon! A great nation and modern industrial economy cannot operate if executive branch agencies are incapable of making a distinction between bicycles and trucks.

The House Appropriations Committee, Transportation and HUD Subcommittee, holds a hearing this Wednesday, “Strengthening Intermodal Connections & Improving Freight Mobility.” Scheduled to testify are Roy Kienitz, DOT’s under secretary for policy, and Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Committee members would do everyone a service by posing this question: “Secretary LaHood last week declared it was now federal policy that motorized transportation should not be favored over non-motorized transportation. What in the world?”

For approving coverage of Secretary LaHood’s comments from bike-oriented outlets, see the extended entry.

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Grand Haven says:

    When was the last time a bicycle impeded the traffic on the highway, which is where the majority of the hauling takes place? There are minimal encounters with semis everywhere else. what next, outlaw classic cars and slow drivers because they create “bottlenecks? The bottlenecks that I’ve driven through are created by 1. accidents, 2. construction due to ignored maintanence (Like Engler did in Michigan), 3. too few lanes and motorized vehicles not maintaining a constant speed, 4. too many vehicles for the amount of lanes (i.e. add some lanes)

    Saying that a few bicyclists are the cause of losing jobs and “bottleknecks” is ludicrous and sophomoric.

    You can eliminate bicycles from metro areas and you’ll STILL have traffic issues due to design, time of the day, and idiot drivers.

    Causes for the deteriorating roads? Big semis and freezing conditions.

  • Terrance Bawlings says:

    Jeeze guys. You just totally stereotyped yourselves as dumb, fat, ignorant truck drivers. Is that really who you are?

    Where does this bill in any way suggest trucking is going to be interfered with?

    Cycling is a healthy, efficient and practical way to get around if you make some very cheap infrastructure improvements to make it safer. It fights obesity, depression, and is often faster than driving in congested cities. It should be encouraged and it’s high time some priority was given to it.

    I’m very sad to see an otherwise thoughtful group fall out of line like this!

  • […] think it’s a little over the top though. I went to Carter Wood’s blog and read his entry on LaHood’s announcement. He quotes: Eighty-percent of our nation’s freight, […]

  • […] Association of Manufacturers (NAM) advisor, speaking for grownup business people everywhere, bashed the new policy: “Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to […]

  • Matt says:

    I can’t believe us thousands of Minneapolis commuters who bike all the time and suck funding away from roads with our pretty bike lanes. Sounds rough until you realize we’re all leaving our cars in our garages and leaving more space on urban freeways for freight.

  • […] National Association of Manufacturers has predicted this new policy will cause “economic catastrophe.” (See our […]

  • […] US Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood’s March 15 policy announcement favoring bicycle transportation received a lot of favorable press from bike wonks like you and I. The National Association of Manufacturers fears the impact this policy could have on “the efficient movement of freight.” They responded on their Shopfloor blog: […]

  • […] transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe,

  • […] fears the impact this policy could have on “the efficient movement of freight” and responded on their Shopfloor blog: Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation […]

  • Brent says:

    “Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe. ”

    Huh? It seems to me that an inefficient movement of customers poses a bigger threat to the economy than freight movement. Without customers, freight movement is useless. When I find myself creeping around Los Angeles at average speeds approaching 10 MPH, and then can’t find parking once at my destination, I think it’s high time to start rethinking our focus on motorized transport.

  • […] fears the impact this policy could have on “the efficient movement of freight” and responded on their Shopfloor blog: Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation […]

  • […] transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe,” warned Carter Wood, a senior adviser at the National Association of Manufacturers. “If put it into […]

  • […] transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe,” warned Carter Wood, a senior adviser at the National Association of Manufacturers. “If put it into […]

  • […] transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe,” warned Carter Wood, a senior advisor at the National Association of Manufacturers. “If put into effect, […]

  • […] Secretary had let his enthusiasm get the best of him,” the manufacturing association wrote on its website. “Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized […]

  • […] I’m in full agreement with the National Association of Manufacturers, who said on their Shopfloor blog last week that “treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized […]

  • […] Shopfloor, the blog of those evil businessmen who want to impose jobs on all of us the National Association of Manufacturers: Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation […]

  • Unit says:

    Perhaps you need to re-read the statement. It speaks and implies nothing of ignoring freight concerns. If you cared enough to actually research the issue, you’d learn that the creation of safe and adequate bicycle facilities actually lessen interference to traffic (including freight) by cyclists, while simultaneously giving cyclists a safe place to ride. You’d also learn that many American lives would be saved by improved pedestrian and bicycle design practices (see results pertaining to safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle occupants in practically every other first-world nation on earth). And you’d learn that this can be done without creating new freight bottlenecks.

    So, you can focus on your apparently narrow worldview and not be disappointed, while others with other perspectives are actually reasonably accomodated too. But perhaps you think that it’s preferrable for us to have the most dangerous transportation system in the first world? If we follow your logic, we will certainly remain that way.

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