P.J.O'Rourke, the satirist, writes a satire-filled (April 2nd) op-ed against (of course) urban biking. Sure, it has some funny lines–funny if you think making fun of misfortune is funny:
Even Dublin, Ireland, has had portions of its streets set aside for bicycles only—surely unnecessary in a country where everyone's car has been repossessed.
Stupid Irish. And then there are the lines that are funny because of their sheer ignorance:
Bike lane advocates also claim that bicycles are environmentally friendly, producing less pollution and fewer carbon emissions than automobiles. But bicycle riders do a lot of huffing and puffing, exhaling large amounts of CO2. And whether a bicycle rider, after a long bicycle ride, is cleaner than the exhaust of a modern automobile is open to question.
But he really does mean to object (seriously) to urban biking or bike lanes in traffic-dense urban areas. The most serious point he raises is this:
In fact, bike lanes don't necessarily lessen car travel. A study by the U.K. Department for Transport found that the installation of "cycle facilities" in eight towns and cities resulted in no change in the number of people driving cars. Bike lanes don't even necessarily increase bike riding. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Dutch government spent $945 million on bicycle routes without any discernible effect on how many Dutch rode bicycles.
This is selective. There are lots of reasons to have bike lanes, such as increasing the safety of bicycle riders. Besides, if one takes the width of the average bike lane, it doesn't turn a two-lane street into a one-lane street. Further, bike lanes in very dense parts of New York City (which is what O'Rourke has in mind) are really a small set of bike lanes. And the alternative to biking there is not driving your personal vehicle (which takes up more space, pollutes more, etc.), but taking public transportation or waking.
Anyway, dismissing this argument unseriously is merely a set up for his darker purpose:
But maybe there's a darker side to bike-lane advocacy. Political activists of a certain ideological stripe want citizens to have a child-like dependence on government. And it's impossible to feel like a grown-up when you're on a bicycle if you aren't in the Tour de France.
Being dependent on your car is true, grown up freedom.
Satire is fun because it gives you a free pass on sophistries. For this reason it would be out of order to hit O'Rourke for the slippery slopes, etc. Nonetheless, underneath all of the nastiness he's trying to make a regular argument. It's just a crappy one.
Speaking of environmentalists and ulterior motives, here's Ayn Rand (courtesy of Crooks and Liars):
Ecology is the war on abundance, fought by the same people who are fighting the war on Poverty. The Ecologists claim that local pollution affects the whole world and threatens the survival of all living species. There is no scientific proof of this claim and none has ever been offered, on the grounds of nothing but arbitrary projections and panic mongering slogans, the ecologists are urging mankind to commit suicide by paralyzing industrial production. Their immediate but not ultimate goal is the destruction of the last remnants of freedoms of capitalism in our mixed economy and the establishment of a global dictatorship. In order to protect our natural environment, this means to enslave mankind on order to protect weeds, birds and reptiles.”
If only that were meant to be satire.