Posted by: aacantor | August 29, 2008

Bike Lanes Causing Pollution? Think again.

From the Wall Street Journal comes this article on bike lanes. The idea is that providing bicycle infrastructure is environmentally harmful, because the same amount of people will still drive, but there will be less space for the cars, causing more idling. This argument from Rob Anderson seems pretty ridiculous to me for a number of reasons.

First of all, Anderson is assuming that adding bike lanes will not increase the number of bikers. However, cities that have invested in bike infrastructure do have more bikers. Take a look at Davis, or Portland. Creating a safer and more comfortable environment for bicycles clearly does encourage more people to ride. Who wouldn’t rather ride in a city with safe bike lanes?

Second, Anderson is arguing that bike lanes are causing air pollution. Clearly, reducing air pollution is one reason to encourage cycling. But, there are other reasons to encourage bicycle riding as well. It’s healthy: in this climate of obesity, we need to get people out of their cars. Along with requiring an environmental impact report, maybe a “health impact report” should be required as well. Also, for those who can’t afford to drive, bikes provide a cheap alternative. How about an “equity impact report” on how bike lanes can help people get around for less money? Or a “safety impact report” documenting the number of injuries and even deaths caused by a lack of bike lanes? Even if bike lanes DID cause air pollution, which I seriously doubt, there are other measures to consider.

Most of all, I think that without thinking ahead and investing in safe and adequate infrastructure for alternative means of transportation, we will never be able to challenge a car-centric culture. The time to change is now. We have to start somewhere, and bike lanes are a pretty easy and productive place to start.

Critical Mass (image from Time magazine)

Critical Mass (image from Time magazine)

Full article from the Wall Street Journal here.



  1. According to me, Bike lanes are not causing pollution at all.

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