Note: The following editorial was written for the Sept 29th issue of BANG! This version is slightly longer and annotated. Elly Blue of Grist and BikePortland published a similar article recently, and I’ve added some of her perspective to mine. You can read her incredible article here.
A Silly Question
One of the biggest debates that we see in the transportation world is whether we should spend money on car infrastructure or bike and pedestrian infrastructure. It’s a common debate, but it’s also silly. It’s silly because those two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive – good bike infrastructure benefits cars and vice-versa. It’s also silly because the debate compares apples to oranges, or more aptly: huge friggin’ GMO hydroponic tomatoes to tiny cherry tomatoes. Car infrastructure is expensive, and bike infrastructure is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. Funding bike infrastructure is the best value per dollar for improving all types of transportation in Eugene. It provides for safe and attractive bike and pedestrian facilities which remove cars from the road and relieve congestion.
If you don’t drive a car, even for some trips, you are subsidizing those who do — by a lot. … To balance the road budget, we need 12 people commuting by bicycle for each person who commutes by car.
Consider this: Portland’s entire 300 miles of bike infrastructure – including bike lanes, paths, and bike boulevards, costs the same as one mile of urban highway. That’s 60 million dollars, if you want real dollar amounts. 60 million dollars for one mile! For the cost of just two miles of urban freeway, Eugene could catch and pass Portland and become the most bike friendly city in the country. This is why any debate around whether or not to fund bike infrastructure is so ridiculous. Cyclists want only pennies compared to what car infrastructure gets.