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As you may remember, I’m from Madison, Wisconsin. We have lots of noteworthy things in and around Madison: a university, Indian mounds, beautiful lakes. And we have bikers. Not the Hell’s Angels tattoo-sporting kind, the Lance Armstrong kind. They’re everywhere, and that’s mostly a good thing (except when they travel in three abreast packs on country roads amongst cars). Bicycles don’t produce carbon emissions, require only manpower, and do not use up dwindling energy resources. As an added bonus, you get some exercise!
Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary, thinks that biking (and walking) are underrated ways of getting around – and he’s planning to give them the recognition (and resources) he believes they deserve. In a recent blog post, LaHood said that Americans want more transportation options and he’s ready to give the people what they want: more bike paths, safer and better-maintained bike lanes, and perhaps most importantly, equal treatment for motorized and non-motorized forms of transportation.
That’s a pretty big statement, especially considering that almost 90% of people in the US drive to work and almost 80% of those drivers make the trip alone. Some people have called LaHood delusional. Still, he says that we as a country simply cannot create “livable and sustainable communities” without offering alternatives to vehicular transportation. That makes sense; people cannot change their ways (even if they want to) if new forms of behavior are not supported or not viable. And with obesity rates skyrocketing, encouraging exercise is a pretty good idea.
And as you can see in cities like Madison (and tandem-friendly San Fran), alternative forms of transportation seem to be increasing in popularity. Still, you have to have the infrastructure to support those alternatives, like Madison’s extensive bike and walking path system.
Cars aren’t going anywhere. LaHood knows that. But he also knows what we know: we have pretty big problems in the transportation department with the climate change and the oil dependence and all that fun stuff. In the hubbub of new cars, alternative fuels, and green technology, let’s not forget the solutions right in front of us.