Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Future of Transportation - Republican-Style

Isn't that a lovely image! If Republicans get their way, this will be what America will look like.

This week, house Republicans have put forward the 'American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act' - their vision for transportation in this country. It is effectively a Pyatiletka - a five-year plan based on the communist 'Theory of Productive Forces' in which social change is brought about by alterations to the way transport is allowed to be done. No matter that the people want alternatives to gasoline-powered road transport - the new Soviet-style vision is for wider roads, bigger trucks, reduced efficiency of rail networks and, most importantly for cyclists like me, the further marginalizing of cycling in the USA.

It has been called the largest transportation reform legislation since the creation of the Interstate Highway System. By 'reform', of course they mean 'gutting anything that doesn't involve support for big oil'. Although the bill doesn't really threaten cyclists' rights to the road, it would certainly make cycling more difficult in this country.

Clearly, the oil, gasoline and automobile lobbies have put a lot of money into crafting this bill. Considering what's coming down the pike in terms of gasoline prices, it's not surprising. These industries want to reduce the scope for alternative transport methods so that they can keep people using more gasoline and stave off any threat to their businesses as long as possible.

The most egregious part of the bill is the gutting of 'safe routes to school'. Sure, the program is underfunded to the point of being useless anyway, but at least it exists - at least the USA 'appears' to be putting kids' safety uppermost. If this bill passes, it won't even do that.

On the positive side, this bill will prevent the trained monkeys who design bicycle infrastructure in this country from arseing up every bike facility they smear their feces on. I have yet to see a bike lane or path that is actually designed with bicycles in mind: they stripe door zone bike lanes that kill cyclists every year; they make 10 yard bike lanes (the infamous 'stupidest bike lane in America' right here in Silver Spring); they create 'protected' bike lanes that make cyclists less visible and more open to turning conflicts. It's fricken ridiculous. And here in MD, if a bike lane exists, however dangerous it is, we're forced by law to use it. If this bill passes, maybe it'll give us time to modify the law so that we're not forced to use the shoddy, crumbling and dangerous infrastructure that does exist.

We'll see if this bill passes. If recent history is anything to go by, Obama's and the Democrats' willingness to cave to the slightest Republican pressure means that anything is possible. By 2017, maybe our bicycles will be a relic of a bygone age and there will be institutional bike-burning rallies, where bikes are brought to the city square and set afire in an orgiastic nipple-tweaking celebration, after which anyone found owning a bike will be jailed. Hail Stalin! Sorry, I mean Hail Boehner!

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