Published by the Colorado Daily 3/?/95
AS THE MILLENNIUM TURNS by Evan Ravitz
(still 5 years ahead of its time)
Too bad Evan Cantor decided to lash out at me and the "bicycle-only
community" straw-man he invents in this space Feb. 23. I
began my column last November 8 -election day- thusly: "We
need transit. But not city ballot issue 2A. And not the politics
that produced it." 2A was defeated 2 to 1. Calling my writing
a "continuing diatribe against public transportation"
Actually, I like public transportation and ride it whenever I'm going too far or haven't time to ride my bike- to Denver and Gunbarrel, chiefly. What I object to is that over $12 million a year goes to local Boulder transit but less than $400,000 goes to cycling. The $400,000 is mostly wasted on Bike Week, complete with bike polo, and other hoopla and paper. Cycling is still, with a cyclist death a year and all the hassle and danger, some four times as popular as the bus (City Modal Shift Study).
I objected strenuously to Council's and Transportation Division's attempt to double the local buses, which now carry an average of only 5.5 people on a 43-passenger bus (RTD "Riding Checks"), while giving only lip service (no money) to cycling. It's a question of balance, Cantor. Come down to the Mall this summer and I'll give you a tight-rope-walking lesson.
There is a place for big buses- regional routes, and main city trunk routes- where there are enough riders to actually save fuel and pollution, instead of exacerbate it as now. Evan says the buses he rides to work (at CU) "are generally full". This mean that he rides the Broadway bus at rush hours. I have averaged all trips for all routes from an inch of RTD "Riding Checks" paper, but use your eyes. The average for the Broadway route 202, RTD's best, is 8.7 passengers on a 43-passenger bus. This was the inch of paper that GO Boulder had "accidentally recycled", it was so embarrassing. It took about 10 phone calls to get it. There's a place for some mid-size buses and the rest of town should be served by on-call shared cabs, which the private sector is ready to provide, when government gets out of the way. Call it appropriate-size technology.
Cantor admitted on the phone that he's never looked at any official studies on transportation. He misunderstands those I've quoted:
I did not assert that "the Eco Pass program is serving 40,000 people", as he writes. There are 40,000-plus "free" tax-subsidized bus passes including 24,000 CU, 2,150 High School and 14,000 Eco-passes, but they are sparsely used, so his attempt to question my math fails. CU's Bus Pass Survey shows that only half the random sample had used their pass even once in the 4 weeks previous!
There are now 3 studies- 2 City, 1 University- that show that all the bribery (with our taxes) to ride the bus is decreasing cycling and walking more than decreasing driving. The 2/13/95 Denver Post states that "nearly two-thirds of HOP patrons interviewed in a recent survey said they would have walked or biked if the city shuttle weren't operating." Only 14% would have driven alone! The CU Bus Pass Survey showed (before the HOP started), that of those who used the pass at all, 58% said they would have otherwise walked, biked or 'other'. Only 25% would have driven alone. And the brand-new Modal Shift Study shows that cycling, which increased rapidly from 1990's 9.8% of all trips to '92's 12.7%, is now down to 12.0%, while the bus is up to 3.3%. Cantor calls this "the wildly successful Eco Pass and student bus pass programs"!
Cantor goes on to disparage Davis, California as a model (25% bike to work there, over triple our 8%.) He says it's the warm climate of Davis. But our 8% in is September, our best cycling weather! We can triple our cycling when the sun shines, which is some 300 days a year here. Transportation Director Weisbach admits he has no similar bus success to point to! But Weisbach in a letter to Council and I, and at several meeting deliberately misrepresents the potential of cycling. He writes: "[Bicycling's] role will be restricted (for most people) to trips of 2 miles in length or less". Yet the 1993 Boulder Valley Employee Survey on Pg 7 shows that the average bicycle commute here is 3.6 miles one way. Weisbach and his Florida consultant Charlier have told me several times they will continue to assert their "opinion" in spite of the facts! No wonder: they can't build an empire on cycling as they can on busing. We buy our own bikes and ride them ourselves.
Cantor ridicules the idea that "Boulder's population is comprised entirely of 29-year-old cross-country skiers", which nobody asserts. However the US Census shows that our median age is about 30, another reason this town has unique potential to solve far more of its traffic problems by bike. I've written extensively on how City practices impede us, from targeting cyclists and pedestrians for enforcement "crackdowns" while 85% of motorists speed, to building expensive road narrowings which violate AASHTO professional standards for road widths and endanger cyclists who are forced into the path of cars. Ad Nauseum.
Cantor ridicules the "ultra-light, full-size 100- to 300-mpg 'hypercars'" I wrote of as "Star Trek" technology. He didn't read my 1/11/95 column where I quoted extensively from the January Atlantic Monthly magazine article by none other than Rocky Mountain Institute founders Amory and Hunter Lovins. They are credited with convincing many electric companies to fund conservation measures rather than building new powerplants, and have won numerous awards. They say this is 1991 technology that just needs to be commercialized.
Do your homework before attacking we who do, Cantor. You can get lots of City studies from the Citizen Assistance office at 443-CITY. You paid for them. Don't parrot the self-serving PR of Transportation Division. And don't poison the public debate.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau said over 220 years ago: "Keeping citizens apart has become the first maxim of modern politics." Is Cantor a naive and uninformed (and fairly nasty) citizen or an aspiring politician?
Evan Ravitz is the chair of Bolder Bicycle Commuter's Transit Committee, director of the Voting by Phone Foundation and board member of the Boulder chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He performs on the tightrope summer evenings on the Pearl St. Mall as Evan from Heaven. Reach him at 440-6838 or firstname.lastname@example.org