Saturday, December 19, 2009

NVTA bashes bicycles once again

The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTA) claims to be "the only organization focused exclusively on working to make better transportation a reality for Northern Virginia citizens and businesses." However, according to NVTA, using a bicycle to get to work, to shop, or otherwise get around doesn't qualify as transportation.

In an earlier post we noted their disparaging comments about funding for bike sharing in DC. In their most recent alert entitled Pedal Power: Is Beijing's Past Washington's Future?, NVTA criticizes MWCOG for wanting to build bicycle facilities to reduce congestion in the region as part of their vision for 2050.

The alert references a recent Post article on the decline of the use of bicycles in China, stating that the only reason the Chinese used bikes was because they couldn't afford a car. The alert ends by stating: "Let's Promote Bicycling as a Quality of Life Benefit. Let's Also Recognize that Absent a Major Economic Implosion, it is Unlikely to Reduce Congestion."

What NVTA didn't mention was that the Post article went on to state that the Chinese are learning about the many downsides to relying too heavily on cars:
"some commuters are realizing that owning a car may bring a certain prestige as a sign of affluence but also comes with gasoline prices, parking fees, the odd traffic ticket and the notorious traffic jams.

"My family bought our first car in the 1990s, but we sold our car last year," said Bai Liping, 45, a saleswoman in an insurance company and an e-bike rider. "Having a car is not that convenient, compared with an e-bike."
Many of the very affluent citizens of Copenhagen have discovered that riding a bike is a great solution to congestion, air pollution, and for creating a livable community. They have a mature transportation system, not one that relies almost entirely on single-passenger autos.

MWCOG are to be commended for trying to create a mature transportation system in the DC Metro area, one that promotes the use of bicycles as a viable part of that transportation network. In places such as Portland, Oregon and Copenhagen, Denmark, where safe, convenient bicycle facilities are provided, people will choose to ride bikes. Even with as few as 5% of commuters on bicycles, our congestion levels would be greatly reduced.

One wonders why NVTA is so opposed to spending comparatively little of the area's transportation budget on bicycle infrastructure improvements. But then what do you expect from a transportation advocacy organization that spells the term "transporation."

If you know someone on the NVTA Board, why not ask them why they support an organization that doesn't recognize bicycles as an integral part of the N. Va. transportation system.


You said in your article: "Many of the very affluent citizens of Copenhagen have discovered that riding a bike is a great solution..." It's interesting that you mention affluence (the only measure of status recognized by most Americans). Understand, status is the issue here. Northern Virginians don't recognize the status of pedestrians, much less bicyclists. I mean, if you can't afford a BIG, honking SUV, get off the streets! Take (shiver) public transporation or something!

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The reason I mentioned the affluence of the Danes is because the NVTA alert, in discussing the demise of the bike in China, stated that 'the citizens of this increasingly prosperous nation are now purchasing cars at record rates. The article laments this is killing "one of the world's great bike cultures." Absent is any suggestion that such "culture" was driven more by poverty than affection for the two-wheel conveyance.'

Status is certainly at play here in the U.S. and I assume in China. That status is changing as more people are becoming concerned about our air quality, obesity levels, and general poor health. With good bike facilities, people will be more wiling to try biking and will discover the many benefits. However, there needs to be a commitment on the part of the community to creating better alternative modes; if decide where to put or transportation funds based on current mode share, we're doomed.

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