“From Guangzhou to Brussels to Chicago, cities are shifting their attention from keeping cars moving to making it easier to walk, cycle and play on their streets.” says the Economist Magazine this week. The editors seem to think that the world wide shift to cheap, safe, non-polluting transportation is good. Well it isn’t. And maybe that explains Why Sudbury has been dragging its feet on this insidious trend.
Sudbury was more bicycle friendly when I moved here in 1987 than it is now. A marked bicycle paths through the downtown has either faded or been replaced by extra lanes. Council’s commitment to becoming the most pedestrian friendly city in the province has been largely ignored by the roads department. And a good thing too.
Cars cost a lot of money. They take a lot of parking space. They need constant care and feeding. Dollars have to change hands. Dollars changing hands are what makes up GDP. GDP is good. The only way to tell if people are better off is to check if GDP is growing.
Bicycles typically cost less than 1/20th of the cost of a car. Every cyclist who gives up a car hurts the GDP. Every cyclist who rides to work avoids buying gas and paying gas taxes. That hurts the GDP. Every cyclist who raises his or her heart-rate and extends her life reduces spending on healthcare. Cyclist are probably more likely to buy push mowers, introducing a vicious economic downward spiral.
Look at what the Economist says: “In 2014 Britain’s transport ministry looked at recently built cycling and walking infrastructure in eight cities. Standard cost-benefit analyses for planned transport infrastructure include a value for the lives saved (or lost) through changes in the number of accidents. Using the same figures for the lives prolonged by increased activity, it found that the cost of the schemes was repaid three-fold—and again in reduced congestion.” The savings lead to reductions in GDP. The reductions in in medical costs are especially serious. Health care is an important growth industry. It is bigger economically than the oil industry. We can’t afford “health-friendly” innovations that cut our GDP.
Pedestrians are even worse. They don’t even buy bikes. They don;t even need fancy aerodynamic helmets. They are willing to tolerate time lost just thinking or talking to friends. They cut the time spent on TV ads. They buy less because they have those stupid cloth bags are are recycled, cutting GDP even more.
The move to pedestrian and bike friendly cities is anti-growth. Fight it while you still can, fellow Sudburians!