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228 Changing Gears 2010-05-14

Bridge on a greenway

A couple of months ago Secretary of Transportation LaHood announced a parity between pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles. I was overwhelmed by the announcement; but did not expect the reactions from the trucking and supply industries. Why would a trucker care? Their complaint was the parity would take funds away from highway projects which would benefit the trucking industry.

When I first read about the possible elevation of riders and walkers to be considered as a means of transportation, I was selfishly happy. Biking and walking are important solutions to our transportation problems. They provide a healthy alternative means of transportation; but not without costs. The projects must be funded.

The sidewalks, paths, greenways, trails, and lanes must be built and maintained. Looking at areas which have a great network of paths, like Boulder, CO, the paths beg for riders and walkers to enjoy the traffic-less freedom. In Nashville, when a long pedestrian bridge was built to span the Cumberland River, I overheard people ridiculing the idea. It was deemed a waste of money because no one would ever use it. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Hoards of riders and walkers use the bridge. The bridge, which connects two greenways, has become a destination and an attraction.

Using the fuel tax money to pay for the alternative transportation infrastructure is justifiable. The benefits of people walking and biking instead of driving are: they produce less pollution, fewer vehicles would be on the roadways, and better health for all. What better way to spend fuel tax money? A great biking link is People For Bikes. (Thanks, Laura.)

What if the fuel tax was considered a sin tax! With sin taxes, the money collected by taxing tobacco, for example, is not spent to promote more smoking. In turn fuel tax money would not be spent to promote more driving. Perhaps the roadways and laws need a transformation to promote sustainable means of transportation and less driving.

Of course there might also be a few alternative taxes that could be considered.

Pollution tax - paid yearly based on the number of miles driven, flown, railed, or floated. The rate would be adjusted according to a pollution index per vehcile and means of transportation.

Comprehensive fuel tax - if the device uses unsustainable energy - the user pays a tax based on mileage.

Health tax - tax those who do not practice a healthy fitness regiment adjusted for their age, weight, and general well being.

Fuel tax money being spent on alternative transportation is good for for the trucking industry, for automobiles, for towns and cities, and for America. The roads to the future will be different. The vehicles will not be filled with gasoline, diesel, or any other un-sustainable fuel. America needs to begin the change, like it or not. It is time to promote walking and biking.


Happy bicycle and walking trails.


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