“The Congress recognizes that bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation…”

The Congress recognizes that bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation, represent a viable commuting alternative to many people, offer mobility at speeds as fast as that of cars in urban areas, provide health benefits through daily exercise, reduce noise and air pollution, are relatively inexpensive, and deserve consideration in a comprehensive national energy plan.

Yes, that’s right, our nation’s 95th Congress (1978) stated this in Act 682 of the National Energy Conservation Policy Act (Public Law 95-619) of November 9, 1978.

35 years later, bicyclists are still marginalized. Act 682 goes on to state

Not more than one year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall complete a study of the energy conservation of potential bicycle transportation, determine institutional, legal, physical, and personal obstacles to increased bicycle use, establish a target for bicycle use in commuting, and develop a comprehensive program to meet these goals. In developing the program, consideration should be given to educational programs, federal demonstrations, planning grants, and construction grants. The Secretary of Transportation shall submit a report to the President and to Congress containing the results of such a study.

The resulting study, titled Bicycle Transportation for Energy Conservation was released in 1980 by the US Department of Transportation. It’s a very interesting read, all 135 pages! Right off the bat the study reads as if it could have been written yesterday. The problem and obstacle definition portion states

The primary obstacles to increased bicycle use for transportation are as follows:

Personal:

  • Low level of awareness and acceptance of bicycle transportation (by potential cyclists and motorists)
  • Inability to bicycle safely and efficiently
  • Lack of provisions for cycle use (on existing streets, special bicycle facilities, bicycle parking availability)
  • Other disincentives (e.g., lack of knowledge about good routes).

Institutional:

  • Low level of awareness and acceptance of bicycle transportation
  • Lack of skills and knowledge relative to bicycle transportation
  • Inadequate funds
  • Lack of communication and coordination.

35 years later, we still have the same problems, and more. However, things are changing, not from the top down but from the bottom up. If you ride a bike and you feel marginalized in the slightest, I encourage you to start talking to your local bike advocacy groups (if one exists, if not, consider starting one), local leaders and local politicians. Local people are starting to get it, just today Tempe councilman Kolby Granville posted this on Facebook

I’ll just say it, if were it up to me, every major street in Tempe would have a dedicated, separated, bike lane. Yes, I’d take out a lane of traffic on major streets to to do it if that were the only way. Yes, I’d be happy to take the phone calls from people who say it will increase traffic on streets and threaten to vote me out of office.

If I were not only 1 of 7 votes on Council, cyclists putting their lives at risk every time they rode a bike would end starting today.

We need all bicyclists to take action, because we certainly can’t rely on the 113th session of Congress!

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