How To End The War On The Car: Recognize It Is A Win-Win Situation

cycling growth new york city image
In Toronto, the new Mayor thinks roads belong to trucks and cars, and thinks bike lanes slow them down. He calls bike lanes and streetcars a "war on the car." In fact, there is some evidence of exactly the opposite; in many cases, a person on a bike might otherwise be taking up road space in a car. In New York, the investment in bike lanes has resulted in a 13% increase in usage last year, and an 88% increase in the last three years. According to Streetsblog, "As the city continues to build out its biking network and add a bike-share system, we are certain that more New Yorkers will choose this affordable, healthy and non-polluting form of transportation."

But we often hear from the car people that bikes are a hazard, that they don't pay their way and that they should be licenced, and their riders should be insured, just like people in cars. In London, Peter Walker of the Guardian explains why this would be pointless and counterproductive.First, Walker explains the benefits of cycling, not for cyclists but for society in general:

Cycling and cyclists are good for society; good for everyone, in fact. You might not like our funny, Lycra-wearing ways, but it's an undeniable truth. If 50% of a hypothetical city's car drivers abandoned their vehicles overnight for bikes it would slash pollution and congestion (for the remaining drivers, too), also bringing less wear to the roads and better health for the new cyclists. It would additionally, at a stroke, dramatically cut the numbers of people killed or badly hurt on the roads, saving millions of pounds and - more importantly - reducing the number of lives lost or devastated through grief or grave injury.

He then points out that any impediment to cycling is going to reduce the number of people who do it.

Cycling's appeal is that it is gloriously simple and impulsive, a habit usually acquired in childhood. It's been shown time and again that even compulsory helmet wearing reduces cyclist numbers. Imagine what would happen if you introduced a registry of bikes and riders, which you'd need to make any licence and insurance scheme viable. Only the truly committed would trek to the test centre, fill in the forms for number plates and screw them onto the frame.

So in the end, if you want fewer cars on the road slowing you down, lower taxes for road maintenance, and reduced health care costs, what you want to do is build more bike lanes, promote cycling, subsidize bike share programmes and stop complaining about cyclists getting a free ride.

Image credit: Streetsblog

More in the Guardian

More on the War on Cars

Bikes and Streetcars Under Threat As The Suburban Car Loving Politicians Fight Back
Are Planners Socialists for Trying to Encourage "Livability"?
Bike Lanes in Toronto Turn Into Phoney "War on Cars"
Motorists Versus Cyclists: A False War Based on a False Premise
The War on Cyclists and Pedestrians is Getting Ugly

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