They’re back. God help us, they’re back.
The arrival of spring has brought with it the annual bicycle infestation. Clogging roads, flouting traffic laws and preening over their tiny “carbon footprint,” cyclists are once again annoying — and in many cases, endangering — drivers and pedestrians.
There was a time when the bicycle movement could be ignored as a passing fad — nothing more than aging, pudgy Boomers, hopped up on discredited fantasies about the impending incineration of the planet, fusing exercise with a fashionable eco-sacrament. Surely, something would come along to replace it. (Hopscotch? Hide and seek? Treehouses?) However irksome and obnoxious, cyclists, like mosquitoes or a cold sore, could be endured.
Bicycling’s inherent impracticalities — snow and rain, sweat, distance, cargo capacity — ensure that it will never be a viable option for 99 percent of commutes, errand runs or roadtrips. But while it’s not growing, neither is it vanishing.
And, oh, the trouble that one percent can make.
Combine climate-change cranks with urban hipsters, trust-fund babies, dopey college kids and car-hating transportation planners. Mix in self-loathing SUV drivers. Sprinkle in cash from a $5.6 billion industry. It’s a potent political force, and vote-seeking pols take notice.
Research by the League of American Bicyclists shows that in 1988, the federal government spent less than $5 million on “bicycling and walking facilities.” By 2008, the commitment had metastasized to $541 million. A 2009 report by U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, MD (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) found that $5.2 billion flowed to “bike and pedestrian projects between FY 1992-2008.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune documented that 70 percent of the members of the House of Representatives requested bicycle-related earmarks in the last reauthorization of the federal Highway Trust Fund.
Do cyclists pay for their goodies? No, that’s drivers’ job. The Highway Trust Fund was originally intended to build and maintain the interstate system. Times have changed. Bicycle pork, along with “mass transit” (i.e., government-run buses and trains), beautification schemes, museum subsidies, and wildlife-conservation grants now pillage the fund’s fuel-tax coffers.
From Capitol Hill to state legislatures to city halls, Big Bicycle increasingly gets its way. Federal largesse is supplemented with revenue extracted from taxpayers at lower levels of government. In moonbat-laden metropolitan regions — Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia — parking racks are proliferating. Bike-sharing programs (no, that’s not a joke) are on the way. Earlier this month, the Miami Herald reported, “The Royal Netherlands embassy in Washington has dispatched three of the famously bike-friendly country’s top experts on ‘cycling as transportation’ to Miami, where they will spend three days figuring out how to turn the city’s car-clogged downtown into a virtual Amsterdam of safe, connected bikeways.”
Sorry, Dutch boys. This is America. Bicycles will never dominate transportation
But on the other hand, cycling’s cultists won’t go away. There’s only one thing left to do: Tax them.
Bike riders need to pay their own way. It is not a radical proposal. Quite the contrary — it’s consistent with national policy. A year ago, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation himself announced a “sea change.” No longer, Ray LaHood decreed, would “motorized transportation” be favored “at the expense of non-motorized.” Walking and bicycling would henceforth be treated “as equals with other transportation modes.”
Okay, fair is fair. Drivers pay for their infrastructure. Why don’t cyclists?
At about 50 cents in local-state-federal taxes per gallon, and average annual consumption of around 500 gallons, drivers surrender approximately $250 to governments each year. (Much of that revenue, remember, is filched for non-road purposes.) So let’s start with an annual bicycle-registration fee set at the same amount. Bike manufacturers, citing research by the National Sporting Goods Association, claim that “38.1 million Americans age seven and older were estimated to have ridden a bicycle six times or more in 2009.” Assuming all those pedal-pushers own and register a vehicle, the Bicycle Lane Trust Fund would raise over $9.5 billion a year. Even in the Era of Obama, that’s real money. Streets and sidewalks would be safer, and imagine how many jobs would be “created or saved”!
It’s time for a truce. Drivers will recognize cyclists’ right to exist. Two-wheelers will fund their own lanes.
It’s a solution solidly moored in America’s noble tradition of political compromise.
Think cyclists will go for it? Me neither.
“Pain at the Pump? We Need More."
That was the eye-catching headline for an April 28 New York Times op-ed article calling for a carbon tax. It was especially eye-catching to readers in Connecticut, since one of its authors was Daniel C. Esty, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy new energy czar.
Esty, a Yale professor who co-authored the op-ed with Harvard’s Michael E. Porter, is an unapologetic advocate of making new, alternative energy sources more competitive with oil, gas and other carbon-based fuels — not by making energy from alternative sources cheaper, but by making petroleum and gas more expensive.
"The best way to drive energy innovation would be an emissions charge of $5 per ton of greenhouse gases beginning in 2012, rising to $100 per ton by 2032," Esty and Porter wrote. Coming at a time when consumers are confronted with $4-plus gasoline at the pump, Esty’s argument was widely viewed as a provocation.
And provoke it did. House Republicans used the article to assert Thursday that Esty had outlined "a Malloy administration proposal that would send gasoline and energy prices skyrocketing."
Said House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. (R-142), "While every other governor in the country is trying to figure out how to make gas and energy cheaper, our governor's energy and environmental czar is trying to make sure prices become truly unaffordable beginning in 2012.” Cafero added that the proposal "is not just misguided, it's insane."
Esty was confirmed last month to head the agency that Malloy hopes will be known ass the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, the product of a shotgun marriage of the existing Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Utility Control.
In 2010, Esty wrote an article for the Huffington Post proposing the imposition of a "harm charge" of $4 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions, a levy that would rise by $4 annually until reaching $84 per ton in 2032.
The governor’s office tried to distance itself from the controversy. The article, Malloy senior advisor Roy Occhiogrosso told CTMirror.com, “does not represent the governor’s point of view. It represents Dan Esty’s point of view. He’s entitled to have an opinion.”
But the GOP was having none of it. A House Republican spokesperson said it was thoroughly accurate to characterize Esty’s call for a carbon tax “a Malloy administration proposal,” because Esty is the administration’s energy advisor.