Check Your Facts at the Door, Please

With the economy on everyone’s mind these days, it’s time to remind ourselves that supporting bicycle use via infrastructure improvements is a superb use of public money that comes back to both government and the private sector in a big way.

I’ve linked to relevant studies before, and I’ll do it again and again, because research trumps gut feelings when it comes to the public realm—or at least it should, though in these Tea-addled days it all too rarely does.

But let’s lay it out straight: building for cars and bigbox development does not generate a positive return on investment; building for bikes and fine-grained local commerce does.

Suburban fantasies aside, bubba.

The photo at the top is but a small example. I was out riding around Downtown LA yesterday to enjoy the first day of the Euro-Catholic New Year when I chanced by this congregation of road and touring bikes at Philippe’s on Alameda, whose riders were all inside leaving their money behind in exchange for coffee and sandwiches. (I could see jerseys and vintage bike logo jackets through the window.)

Because of a lack of bike racks—there’s only one—they were scattered among poles and parking meters, but brought together they would have taken up less room than a car or van.

And all around downtown and along Sunset Boulevard through Echo Park and Silverlake I saw pretty much the same thing: lots of bikes locked up in front of any eating establishment that chose to open on New Year’s Day. Lots of folks on their bikes riding around, too. (The majority of LA’s cyclists must be considerably more sober-minded than most of my bike buddies, I guess!)

Put the two together—support for cycling and support for small business‐and you’ve got a magic formula for boosting jobs, local prosperity, and government income—while reducing the vast outlays we all too typically indulge in when subsidizing private car use, inefficient sprawl development, and bigbox commerce.

We’ve been bamboozled for too damn long. It’s time for a culture-wide fact-checking session, don’t you think?

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