- Flawed US transportation practices increasingly seen as a challenge to our national security.
- More bike infrastructure, multimodal transportation options, and reclaiming space from cars should be key policy goals.
A recent article by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization, addressed potential solutions to the many flaws in US transportation practices. Unsurprisingly, among its proposed six policy goals was giving more space to bikers and pedestrians.
The commentary caught our attention because CSIS is perhaps best known for its focus on national security matters and related global challenges. In recent years, however, its work has increasingly recognized that climate change, energy and sustainability, global health, and similar topics are key to peace and security in our world. FABB has long advocated for bicycling as a means to make the world a better place, and it’s great to see serious policy organization increasingly include that point of view in their recommendations.
Among the author’s unsurprising conclusions is that data shows the average American uses much more energy in transportation than counterparts in Europe because of urban sprawl, too many cars, and very inefficient cars. These factors contribute to high carbon dioxide emissions as well as road fatality rates that far exceed other developed countries on a per capita basis.
The article recognizes that the US car-based system has accumulated over a century and will not go away soon. It proposes priority policy goals of making cars more efficient or electric and helping the US auto industry make money from smaller, fuel-efficient cars.
A third goal is to encourage density, which makes non-car mobility options viable, when addressing housing needs. family units. In a country where a house equals wealth, policies to reduce housing costs. The fourth priority, which is difficult politically, is to reduce car use by raising federal and state gasoline taxes. But these are at all-time lows adjusted for inflation and are inadequate for supporting highways and roads as intended.
The related fifth goal is to get people out of cars by providing viable alternatives. Public transit has been hit hard by Covid-19 and hurt by the probably incorrect idea, given experiences in Asia and Europe, that riding a bus or a train is risky. As the article points out, this is an equity issue: poor people and minorities use buses and subways more. We need public transit to improve economic opportunity, and transit officials need to focus on safety, affordability, frequency, ease, and integration.
According to the article, the final priority should be taking space from cars—as many cities are doing in response to the crisis—by closing streets to add bike lanes or for pedestrians to walk, play, or dine. This should include road diets and the addition of new bike infrastructure where needed. As FABB members know, the benefits go beyond transportation: walking and biking improve public health. The more places people can reach on foot or a short bike ride, the healthier they will be, and the more sustainable our transportation system will become.