LaHood’s Table Talk and Bike Summit Revisionism

The Washington Post reports on the Bike Summit, the annual fly-in of bicycle advocates to lobby Congress for more money and federal laws. From “Cycling advocates head to National Bike Summit“:

Bicycling advocates will arrive en masse in Washington on Tuesday for the annual National Bike Summit, three days of planning and lobbying that made news last year when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood climbed onto a table to address the group.

No, that’s not right. While bike bloggers loved LaHood’s table speech, what made news was his bumptious policy pronouncement:

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.

As we then argued in a Shopfloor post, “Embracing Bicycles at Expense of Freight, Jobs, Reality:

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.

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.”

Secretary LaHood’s remarks showed misguided leadership, an agency askew. Instead of focusing limited federal dollars — they are limited, you know — on interstate commerce and infrastructure, the Secretary talks up “community livability,” i.e., urban planning, bike commuting as the answer to traffic congestion, and he seems to be more interested in his anti-texting campaign than freeways, roads and bridges.

The Examiner calls it “LaHood’s war against cars.” We call it wrong priorities.

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Carter Wood says:

    Big oil conspiracies, class war, neo-Malthusian apocalypse — you’ve got it all! Oh, for a Julian Simon.

  • Labann says:

    Mr. Wood (let me point out how few “woods” are left), if you factored in the cost of environmental protection, most motor transport would be impossible. Need I remind you or Gulf or Valdez spills? Needy people subsidize and tolerate it at great personal cost, est. at $4 trillion/yr. in compromised health and road construction (most of which goes to Big Oil who supplies asphalt, too). Driving your own vehicle is an incredible convenience and privilege. Enjoy it while you can.

    Long before the mere 1.4 trillion bbl of known reserve of oil disappears (~47 yrs at current levels), sooner given expansion in China and India, allocation and rationing will exclude personal uses in favor of defense, manufacturing, and public transport (busses, subways, trains). US alone slurps down 20 million/bbl/day, 25% of World’s daily use. Electricity and hydrogen alternatives using costly metals will never fill the gap.
    Big Oil destroyed America’s future by systematically suppressing research into other technologies for decades. Unless you’re aggressively progressive with R&D on batteries, fuel cells, and renewable power sources, you’re doomed to a dying paradigm. The tightening control of oil will likely instigate WWIII, according to industry analysts, such as Mazen Labban, maybe within this decade.

    Diehards might then be happy for a simple appliance to ease effort of marching. Meanwhile, staycations and telecommuting have become increasingly popular. “Jobless recovery” is hopeful pabulum disguising permanent depression, but not for XOM’s CEO, who received a bonus of $0.5 billion. For what? You’ve got to wonder. Consider yourself lucky to be momentarily on the “plus” side of this class war, because it won’t last.

  • Carter Wood says:

    A subject for further debate: “Pedaling has always been connected with song writing more closely than motoring.”

  • Carter Wood says:

    Now THAT’s a statement of principled opposition. Of course, without motor transportation modern civilization is impossible, but as long as we can bike from hovel to hamlet, all is well.

  • Labann says:

    Motor transportation is the least sustainable process on earth. It trades on convenience at the environment’s expense and people’s health. You miss my point on the ratio: bicycling doesn’t need trillions in expenditure. Mtb’s don’t even need pavement.

    When I met him, Isaac Asimov told me he wrote over 500 titles. But, yeah, I literally wrote more, several over 500 pages, published in limited fashion to industry, during a career spanning 4 decades. My ongoing blog lists over 300 more songs since discovered, raising the number of recordings to over 1,800. Pedaling has always been connected with song writing more closely than motoring.

  • Eric Vey says:

    The point the others are making is that bicycle use reduces the number of private cars on the road making personal trips. Fewer cars means more space for trucks.
    You could make an argument that private cars are paying for the roads through fuel taxes and that by reducing the number of cars, the amount of taxes are also reduced. Less fuel revenue means less money to build more roads for more trucks, but even though there are more cars now than there was 20 years ago, they use less fuel than they did. Trucks are also more fuel efficient, so they are paying less, too. This means that fuel tax collection is in a death spiral as more and more cars demand more and more pavement while paying less and less.
    Continuing on that course is bad public policy.

  • Carter Wood says:

    How about efficient movement of freight, critical for on-time delivery and factory jobs? How much freight is delivered via motoring infrastructure versus bikes? I wager the ratio is something other than 1:2500.

    Bicycles are good and fine, but let’s remember what Secretary LaHood said: “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.”

    No distinction between motorized and non-motorized transportation? That is bad public policy with no acknowledgment of the proper role of federal government in a time of limited resources.


    P.S. Hundreds of books? Very impressive. Not even Tom Clancy has managed that. I did like your list of bicycling songs.

  • Earlly Man says:

    If people in cities could ditch one car because they could get around reliably and safely half the time biking they would have an extra $8k each year to spend on things that our shops could make and our trucks could ship. Does ShopFloor prefer that $800 billion gets transferred to the Middle East for oil each year? I don’t see that money producing any American jobs.

  • Labann says:

    After 30 years in manufacturing and writing hundreds of books, I consider myself an authority. As F. Moore said, you pit factory jobs against small expenditures for construction jobs. Do you realize that the ratio of federal spending on bicycling to motoring infrastructure is 1:2500? They spend nearly $1 trillion a year on motorways. Meanwhile, state DOTs are violating law after law accommodating motorists over vulnerable users (bicyclists, walkers and wheelchair users). ADA compliance and “Complete Streets” are not some future “nice to have”. They could cut road spending by 75% by simply repairing existing roads rather than build new ones. All bicyclists really need is a generous shoulder alongside roads, which they’ve been stealing for “turning lanes” and whatnot.

  • Fletcher Moore says:

    You’re offering a false choice. Bicycles don’t have to replace freight or jobs. If we take, say, 1% of cars off the road, that translates into lower gas prices (less demand), less wear and tear on the infrastructure, cleaner air, and healthier people (also saving money). Truck away — bicycles won’t hurt you!

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