Monday, October 6, 2008

Hither and Yon #2

UPDATE: Welcome to visitors from Austin Bike Blog! As a native Austinite myself (Beat OU!!), I'm doubly pleased y'all found y'all's way here and hope you enjoy your visit here.

A round-up of links and some recent past adventures, in no particular order:

A bit of silliness from my other blog about Elmira Gulch as Kansas cyclist archetype.

Via Bike Commute Tips Blog and BlogNetNews's Cycling page, the news-to-me announcement that part of the just-passed $700 billion-dollar bailout bill was the inclusion of a $20-per-bike-commuting-employee tax break to employers. While Paul of Bike Commute Tips rightly notes that it would have been preferable to include monies or incentives for infrastructure changes leading to bike-friendlier streets--and of course, it goes without saying that we'd all have been much better off without the need for the larger bill of which this is a part--it's also true that this sort of program should help as well in "trickle-up," grassroots movements to encourage cycling and, via growing numbers and awareness, cause municipalities and states to see the value of cycling and mass transit and plan (and invest) accordingly.

Cycling Chat #3: File this under "In case you need another reason to bike-commute." A while back, I biked over to a nearby laundromat with a small load of clothes. While there, a couple walked over to my bike and began talking about it, so I went up to them and struck up a conversation. It turned out that the man had just bought a new bike from Wal-Mart (they don't have much money) and that he has been using bicycles as his primary transportation since 1986. The chief reason for that, he shared, was that one night that year he had been driving while drunk and had an accident. He decided then that perhaps a bike might be a better option for him because, and I quote, "I like my beer."

The pragmatics of cycling manifest themselves in many ways, do they not?

From the League of American Bicyclists comes their list of bicycle-friendly businesses, recently announced at Interbike, the largest bicycle trade show in this country. A quick survey of the list reveals a depressingly-familiar East Coast and West Coast heaviness; on the other hand, though, I'm glad to see the good people of Clif Bar & Company on the list: not only do they make a superior energy bar, they are seriously committed to being good corporate citizens.

And finally: You may have heard that there's a national election next month. I happen to support Barack Obama's candidacy and hope you will consider doing the same. I respect that enormous problems face this country, problems that can appear to dwarf urban policy concerns in terms of importance. Certainly, I'm not a single-issue voter and discourage those who are from thinking like that.

But: if I were, and urban policy were my single issue, here's what I would say about that. First of all, I would make the argument that wise decisions with regard to urban policy have the clear long-term benefits of making our nation a more energy-efficient, healthier and more prosperous place for more of its citizens. And to that end, a thoughtful person who cares about urban policy should strongly consider voting for Obama. Of special interest to cyclists is the following passage from Obama's 12-page Urban Fact Sheet [pdf]:
Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning
Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Better transportation alternatives will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

John McCain's website has no comparable section on urban policy. The American Energy page of his site does address developing alt-fuels and fuel efficiency in cars and improving buildings' energy efficiency; to be sure, those are important tasks to take on. However, unless he addresses them elsewhere McCain's website does not include mass/alternate transportation as being, even potentially, part of the "transportation sector" that, to my mind, should also be considered when addressing our cities' and citizens' future prosperity. Another way to put it: it is not an anti-car argument to say that the fewer cars are on the streets, the more livable--the healthier, the more prosperous--cities become. And of course, there are other ways to reduce the need for cars besides mass transit, such as programs to make it feasible for more workers to be able to afford to live closer to where they work (which Obama's fact sheet also addresses).

As long-time visitors to this blog know, I see real potential in Wichita as regards such matters. It's the biggest city in the state, but its still-short average commute times tell me that it is an excellent candidate for a well-thought-out transportation plan that makes room for pedestrians and mass/alternate transportation via Complete Streets and a re-imagining of the relationship between people's workplaces and residences. It seems to me, if the candidates' websites are any indication, that Obama has considered all this far more carefully than McCain has. If these policy matters are of concern to you, I would urge you to consider all this as you weigh your choices this coming November.

No more politics here--I promise.

But, along the lines of urban and transportation policy, Matthew Yglesias makes the case for congestion pricing.

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