6.22.2007

Why Bubba Won't Bike

I read somewhere the other day that energy policy is the biggest issue of our time. True enough.

Thing is, transportation policy is the biggest issue of all time. Cave dudes and the wheel, Romans and their roads, Euros and their ships, and ... of course ... Americans and their cars.

A thriving and efficient transportation system is essential. To a growing economy. To a healthy society. To the little store down in the village as well as the mega-brand up in the big city.

But what makes a transportation system work is the willingness of the participants to keep playing along. In other words, it doesn’t matter how well your highways are built or how wide they are if people hate them, and if they just simply refuse to use them anymore.

Sad to say, that what’s happening with our sidewalk and path systems. People would just rather drive to work than rope up for a 5.11 scramble to the office.

Take my town for example ... a "healthy" place that openly markets itself as a recreational destination. The sidewalks and shoulders are simply pathetic. And when you've got poor walking systems, they don't get used. And when they don't get used, people find it more efficient to drive. And once they're behind the wheel, they’re more willing to look further from home for work opportunities, for grocery shopping, and for all their commercial needs.

And so it goes. As local transportation systems fail, so do local businesses.

Energy is important, but we have to keep our eye on the ball. A focus on core area transportation needs is something that should be front of mind. Today.

By denying our communities the fundamental right of coherent local transporation alternatives, we are handicapping ourselves even further in a time of soaring oil prices and weighty property taxes.

This is not a mission to Mars. Bringing core community bike paths and pedestrian walkways to a respectable, usable level is not only within our power ... It is within our reach.

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