Is Cycling about to die?

There is some pretty dire prose over at the League web site about saving cycling.  While I share the concern with the Federal transportation bill being ludicrously auto-centric and energy-intensive, and I personally worry that the House Republicans are attacking anything they can connect to various progressive movements, I remain confident that cycling is in no danger of ending as we know it, even if our (rather small) seat at the Federal trough is cut back or eliminated.  The power to “save” cycling, assuming it is in need of being saved, is within each of our saddles and indeed, organizations like LAB can fall back on deep roots that far pre-date Transportation Enhancements. Not without some pain, though.

Some good will possibly die if this bill passes as written. We could be hamstrung in defending against poor rumble strip placement and bridges lacking cycling access, as mentioned in a comment on the LAB Blog by Bill Hoffman. I’d add to that list that there should be Federal drivers that we have qualified people on state DOTs who know something about bicycling and can push for good roads-although I’ll probably take some flak here for saying that due to some of the more dubious things foisted on cyclists by planning funded under Federal programs or pass-throughs-the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity. I would like to see Federal standards on shoulder quality in rural areas. Even under current law, New Mexico kills cyclists with impunity on badly designed state bike routes.  For that matter I would like to see Federal standards protecting our right to the road so a cyclist on a transcontinental (i.e., interstate) journey doesn’t have to worry about Black Hawk, Colorado (a worry recently brought close to home in Albuquerque when the cycling community, including LAB, fought off an attempt to ban cycling on a perfectly good road). Finally, in a nation as dispersed as ours and where much of 20th Century urban architecture has focused on automobile based mobility, I really do think we need to address how we will integrate more sustainable modes into our national consciousness, as a national security  as well as public health issue.  That is one role I would like to see us not leave to landscape architects or auto-centric policy makers.

But cycling will not die. We don’t need to save it but we do need to nurture it. We do need to keep the baby and toss the bathwater, when it comes to Federal programs.  Let’s make sure the cycling community doesn’t form a circular firing squad on this topic.


About Khal

I am a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where I have worked for nine years after having spent 10 years on the graduate faculty of the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and four previous years on its technical staff. I started to “ride lots” (to quote Eddy Merckx) at SUNY, Stony Brook, Long Island. I’ve been actively engaged in bicycling and bicycling advocacy, and in transportation planning as a citizen volunteer for most of twenty years. For the past five years, I have been the chair or vice-chair of the Los Alamos County Transportation Board, which advises county government on surface and air transportation policy. During that period, I have also served as the chair of the LANL Traffic Safety Committee, which works with the institution under 10CFR851 to improve the safety of the Laboratory’s traffic systems. I served several years on the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico Board of Directors. I am an LCI. Prior to moving to New Mexico, I was active as a Board member, vice President, and President of the Hawaii Bicycling League, sat on the Honolulu Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Bicycling, and on the U of Hawaii at Manoa Bicycle Planning Committee. I was a contributor to the 1999 Honolulu Bicycle Master Plan (as VP of the Hawaii Bicycling League, which coordinated cyclist input) and a co-author, with our county traffic manager, of the 2005 Los Alamos County Bike Plan. Back when I dreamed I was fast, I raced USCF. It was only a dream. I remain committed to a strong and effective League of American Bicyclists, but demand that membership be given a much more meaningful role in League governance. That, after all, is the only way to ensure that members have meaningful control over the direction of their League. All comments I make here or on my own blog are my personal opinions alone. Others are welcome to agree or laugh. Aloha, Khal Spencer
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