Home > Uncategorized > ‘The Politics of Bicycling’ continues in June’s TCBN

‘The Politics of Bicycling’ continues in June’s TCBN


Today’s Rant

My editorial ‘Car-advocates, beginning to rally‘ was a first response to Ron Jolly’s Traverse City Business News commentary titled ‘The Politics of Bicycling‘. That reply was much too lengthy for the 200 words and under limit for TCBN letter to the editors.

200 words and under, even for an active Twitter user like myself, is a daunting limit to adequately respond to Jolly’s myopic, misconstrued and totally off base commentary. It, however, was important to respond because I don’t believe we can support his and other car-advocates love-affair with cars and they need to hear that message. We can’t afford it in the terms of the ‘wealth’ lost in serving the habit, this wealth includes the natural environment, community and quality of life, among many other elements of livability that Jolly downplayed in his commentary.

Fiscally Conservative

Just as important and poignant to direct at those who claim they are fiscally conservative is the financial reasons why the car-culture, as we know it, is unaffordable. The fiscally conservative approach to transportation is to get beyond ideology and to support active modes of transportation like walking and biking, and we do that by investing in complete street infrastructure and transit. It not only is less expensive and costly on all of us over time, unlike infrastructure like a highway, it increases property values.

Those who wish to build single use infrastructure in the name of chasing unattainable capacity with wider and more roads aren’t looking at the numbers. We can’t afford the roads we have, and they want new ones? The county road commission estimates that 80% of their roads are in poor condition with a price tag of $113 million needed just to raise their status to good. MDOT is about to lose nearly $500 million dollars in federal funds because the state can’t come up with matching funds. The same people who advocate for cars and roads everywhere, also seem to the same people refusing any new taxes to pay for it.

The Letters

I digress…I did manage a last-minute letter to the editor for the June issue of TCBN that came out this week; it is published below. My little effort is graced to be printed below a TCBN regular commentator, Michael Dettmer, who used his full-page to also respond to Jolly’s politics in his piece ‘The Politics of Bicycling-Revisited‘.

I recommend finding a copy and reading Dettmer’s full response. He strikes a balanced, reasoned tone that speaks to the fabric of what it means to live in a community. He also directly responds to Jolly’s question about the need for bike lanes on 8th Street. Jolly asked, “Do we really need bike lanes on 8th Street?” Dettmer replies:

The answer is, we need all of Traverse City’s streets to be safe and accessible for all of its users. And when those infrequent times occur that provide us an opportunity to redesign, repair and repave, we should expect the governmental unit and its employed staff not to bury their collective heads but to adhere to and implement community adopted transportation policies such as TC TALUS, the TC Master Plan and other community visions, including concepts of complete streets.

Walk it! Bike it! Bus it!

Dettmer continues to connect the Division St. rethink and the need to embrace the complete street concept that places the needs of pedestrians and bike riders, as well as the context sensitivity to place, as equally important to moving motorized traffic. It doesn’t mean that cars will get shoved into a corner, it just means that we need to make a street that shares the corridor and build something that actually enhances the community. Amen.

We need more voices speaking out and one of the best ways is to show them how we intend to use it…Today is the day.

My letter to the editor:

Traverse City has tremendous potential to be a true walkable & bikable community. Even in winter, people are choosing to walk, bike or bus as a real transportation choice. However, car advocates occupy many of the seats of power and several of the public airways. When a bike lane on 8th Street is suggested, you’d think the end was near.

They are not the only voices; they may just be a loud minority. Many city-residents are asking for tools that will encourage more citizens and visitors to think twice before using their car. A little infrastructure would go a long way to encourage more active users. I have neighbors who drive a block to avoid crossing Garfield Ave. on foot. That’s wrong.

The era of the automobile won’t end soon, but it is crumbling, just like 80% of the roadways that the county can’t afford to maintain. The era of simply providing for a single, inefficient, inequitable use is over. Transportation is too pervasive of a land-use and expense for the professionals in the field to not make community and people their primary priority.  Our job is to show them how we want to use it. Walk it! Bike it! Bus it!


Next week would be a good time to start as well.

June 7th-11th, 2010


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