Like other activities related to sustainability, bicycling has had its share of hard knocks. One town banned bicycles, a gubernatorial candidate likened them to a power grab by the UN, and labels like socialism and “European” have been tossed at two wheeled vehicles as well. Not that contempt of bicycles is limited to the right: biking in LA runs the risk of getting flattened by a hybrid SUV sporting an Obama-Biden bumper sticker.
Bicycling should defy the left-right debate, however. After all, it is a cheap activity, saves money, allows for freedom, can be healthy, and offers a lifestyle choice at any budget level. Costco or Walmart wheels will get you around town, or you can blow your budget on the Hummer or Ferrari of bicycles—all of which can be bought new or used.
Tom Bowden, a conservative attorney who lives in Virginia, gives some talking points about bicycles and bike paths that some of us can use when talking with those who might be dubious. His talking points begin with bikes’ greatest benefits: the freedom of movement, efficiency, and the legacy of entrepreneurism.
Bowden continues with other financial metrics that biking advocates should bring up when confronting any naysayers:
- One study suggested that homes located near bike paths had a higher value than other homes. Better having a home near a green belt than a highway overpass.
- Bike paths are cheaper than roads to build. True, that is a pretty easy one to point out—but in an era where earmarks are bashed (unless they are for one’s home legislative district), it’s better to have a bike path in your town than a road elsewhere.
- Bicycling generates up to an annual US$133 billion in economic activity in the USA.
- Billions of dollars each year goes towards health care costs related to inactivity, and even more is spent on traffic injuries and deaths because of car-related injuries.
- You can make the case that cycling is patriotic (re: Tour de France), can reduce American dependence on foreign oil, and ties in to Americans’ love of life, liberty, and happiness.
At a time when federal, state, and local budgets are facing austerity measures, funding for bicycle paths and anything else that can get more citizens on two wheels is still a possibility. Review the rest of Bowden’s article for how NOT to talk to those who are leery of bike-friendly measures. The comment thread, as well, trails on for quite a length, and is a delicious read, too.