16 August 2007

Defending trails: US Secretary of Transportation calls bike paths a waste of money, or I'm having a really, really bad day...

So maybe trails aren't always the best way to go, and maybe building sidepaths to shove bicycles off the road is really a devious Trojan horse that turns us all into second-class road users. But you know what, I'm a trail gal at heart. Trails are great. They make all sorts of good things happen when they're done right. They inject new life into old infrastructures, spur economic development, link communities, create safe and convenient transportation corridors in small spaces, give cyclists and pedestrians exclusive access to interesting scenery, give citizens something to take pride in, preserve history, conserve resources, and generally spread joy and happiness throughout the world.

Trails--when they're done right--do not waste money. Ask anyone on the Lakefront Path or Fox River Trail. Ask the people who spend their weekends caring for the Illinois Prairie Path out of love and dedication. Ask the southland residents eagerly raising funds and enthusiasm for the Calumet-Sag Trail. Ask the Grand Illinois Trailblazers who bravely made that loop even though key connections were still incomplete. Ask all of us who utilize bike paths for ordinary transportation purposes as well as for fun and recreation. Ask me--how else could I safely get downtown and back alone in fading daylight?

So I feel sorry for the US Secretary of Transportation. She must never have seen a trail done right.

From the League of American Bicyclists:
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters talks about infrastructure problems and travel initiatives

"[DOT Secretary Mary] Peters, when asked about a possible gas tax increase, repeated President Bush's response--No, there can be no tax increase because Congress is wasting the money they already get. Peters cited 'bicycle paths' as a prime example of the waste because bicycles are not a transportation use of the gas tax money."

Great galaxy cluster, is there anything this administration can't screw up? They'd find a way to ban people from breathing oxygen if they could. Way to ruin my day AGAIN, Dubbya.

Now believe me, I hate to see a bridge collapse more than the average person does (where did I get this insane fear of bridges?), but don't you dare blame all of us crazy bike "evangelists" for this one. We pay our taxes same as you. (Some of us even buy gas.) We're not kids with toys on a glorified playground wasting everyone's transportation infrastructure money. Our bikes are our vehicles; we often use those trails to commute to work or run really tedious errands. How is that not "transportation use"? Do we ever accuse you of wasting tax funds because you like to drive around the park on weekends just to keep your car in shape?

Send a letter to Secretary Peters if you want; I probably will later.

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