Are bicycles a valid transportation option?

In an August 15th interview with Gwen Ifill on PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters hinted that too much federal money was being spent on bike trails and that was partially responsible for the bridge collapse in Minnesota. In the interview she said, "I think Americans would be shocked to learn that only about 60 percent of the gas tax money that they pay today actually goes into highway and bridge construction. Much of it goes in many, many other areas." She continued on to explain that "there are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure." You can read the transcript of the entire interview here. You can also read a story about the interview at Salon.

I found Secretary Peters' comments particularly interesting since I just spent a week in Copenhagen, Denmark at a conference. discussing the Future of Cities. It was widely agreed that alternative forms transportation were key to the development of sustainable cities. It was also interesting to learn that in Copenhagen nearly 40% of residents ride their bikes to work. If I remember correctly the breakdown was something like 37% bike, 33% car, and 30% mass transit. Also, in about a month my office will be moving and I will start commuting to work on bike as well.

What do you think? Are bikes a viable transportation option in Tampa Bay? Should 60% of the gas tax be used on building highways? Or should a higher percentage be used for mass transit? What about congestion taxes? They seem to be working great in London and soon may come to fruition in NYC?


Adam said...

I ride to work almost every day. Pinellas County has a much better cycling infrastructure than does Hillsborough. It does take a solid commitment to ride if do not live very close to an urban center such as downtown St. Petersburg. Secretary Peters' comments were unfortunate.


Christopher Vela said...

I think for bike usage to be successful it starts with the people getting know about other cyclist and setting an example. It is an instant cheap way to say hey, 'we can do this in our city':


I don't think we can achieve a harmony of sustainable ratios anytime soon for the Bay Area. We may have to overhaul and revamp our bus lines with the hope of using light rail. Then if light rail works, move to high speed connections to bigger cities; Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, etc. We as a state can barely spend money right. I'm not sure if I feel comfortable allowing a massive tax amount being concentrated on single area, especially when we have natural disasters (hurricanes) and other public safety issues.

On a side note, the bike baths we have in Tampa suck. If you look at other cities they actually highlight/mark the whole width and length of the path in a different color (blue or green) instead of using a thin yellow line. Plus in downtown our bike path runs right into the I275 interstate exit with no lights but just a yield signs! I guess being a city of litigations, the lawyers are thrilled

Nico Stearley said...

I actively ride my bike to work 3-5 days a week and the only thing it costs me is a ymca membership (a place to get ready for the office after the ride). I am lucky to have a mostly safe route into downtown Tampa that allows me to compete with rush hour traffic on three-laned Bayshore Blvd.
Bikes are a neccessity in other cultures, which also have active urban centers more dense than the Bay Area. If they can do it with buses and cars feet away - why can't we? In response to the article, Trails are more recreational - road widening with adaquate sidewalks and/or bike lanes are more pertinent.

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