Thursday, January 3, 2019

Piece on Declining Bike Commute Rates Misses Key Elements of our Autoism

There's a fairly lengthy piece in the national section of the paper today on bike commute rates nationally.

Today's piece on bike commute rates and
December 28th full-age car ad:
The total context of our autoism is missing
It's solid so far as it goes. It leads with a nice vignette about a bike train and some discussion of "Encouragement" projects.

But recognizing that Encouragement efforts don't really scale up to affect whole systems, a little farther in it talks about more structural forces:
Most obviously, lower gasoline prices and a stronger economy contributed to strong auto sales and less interest in cheaper alternatives, such as mass transit and bikes. The rise of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and electric scooters cut into bike commuting, said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition....

[Declining or flat commuting] “shows that while we have made investments over the last 20 years” in bicycle infrastructure, “we are still far from having safe and connected networks that make people feel safe biking to work,” said Ken McLeod, the league’s policy director....

Public Works Director Craig Beck said “A separated bike lane that goes four blocks doesn’t really do anything. It’s about point-to-point safety.”
But what it doesn't do is grapple with the system of subsidy we have for our autoism that ensures bicycling and transit remain less attractive choices. It doesn't talk about our land use, it doesn't talk about the auto industry, it doesn't talk about Federal policies - it mentions only that "Federal highway spending on bike and pedestrian-related improvements totaled $915.8 million this year" but gives no context for the total Federal highway spending - doesn't talk about our mania for free or underpriced parking, doesn't talk about underpriced road use (or decongestion pricing).

Here in Salem, in discussions about tree removal and parking, in discussions about missing middle housing and transit, across many different conversations, there is a prevailing sentiment that the reason transit and biking are an amenity, and haven't taken off is because we haven't made them attractive enough. A while ago on social media a person wrote:
Before driving can be discouraged, mass transit has to be fast. My daughter’s ride home from Chemeketa takes two hours.
This is such a common pattern in argument: Before we inconvenience driving in any way, we first must make this great improvement to walking/biking/busing.

But the goalposts keep moving.

Maybe we need to think more about the systems that subsidize and support our autoism and ask why we work so hard to ensure drive-alone car trips remain the mobility choice of first resort. If car trips are bad for our health, if cars create death and injury on the roads, if cars are a great source of greenhouse and particulate pollution, why do we value drive-alone trips so highly that we take great care to inconvenience all other kinds of trips?

We have decades of evidence now: A primary reason that transit is not attractive is because we price it in time and in money so that it is more expensive than drive-alone trips. Once drive-alone trips are priced in parity with transit, biking, and walking, then we will see ways to alter the total mobility mix.

Postscript, January 6th

Here's an example of the way we have priced transit (+ bike) to be too costly and failed to price driving so it is costly enough - the incentives and pricing signals don't align right at all. It's for San Francisco, not Salem, of course, so it's especially bad, but the general structure of the problem is the same.

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1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added a clip from a San Francisco commuter who calculated the costs of his commute.