This letter is in response to Mary Peters's, the Secretary of Transportation who described in her interview how DOT funds go to earmarked projects that aren't actually transportation like bike paths! These are the kinds of comments that show how short-sighted our administration and how much more work we all have to do.
I would like this forwarded to Mary Peters. I am writing regarding Ms. Peters comments during her public television interview aired on August 15th. In this interview, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation stated that she does not actually consider the most fuel efficient mode of transportation currently available to not fit under the realm of the DOT and should not be funded. To quote, "Well, there's about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails." Although bicycling for some is sport, exercise, and recreation, for many others, it is a major method of commuting and an important part of our transportation infrastructure now and moreso in the future. My wife and I both ride 3/4 mile to work and we frequently ride 3-5 miles on errands and around town and it is an important part of how we travel locally.
Fuel prices are rising and will continue to rise. Many experts admit that "Peak Oil", that is, the point where oil production can no longer be increased and will soon begin to fall, will happen within the next 10 years. With the enormous increase in demand for fossil fuels from developing countries like India and China and continuing increasing demand in other countries, including our own, we need to expect a collapse of the oil economy within the next 20-30 years, easily within our lifetimes. Spending billions of dollars supporting this corroded and corrupt infrastructure does nothing to prepare us for the crisis that we will face. Roads and bridges need to be repaired, it is true. However, we must also have a vision of how transportation will happen in 20 years. Will electric or hydrogen cars fill the streets? Will public transportation be the norm as people are forced to move from the suburbs back into cities because travel and commuting becomes so expensive? Will human-powered vehicles be the standard for short-distance commuting?
Of all these possibilites and more, biking is the only mode of transportation that requires nothing but the calories of the user, uses currently available technology, and actually improves the health of the user rather than belching toxic emissions into the air we breathe. Biking should be encouraged by the agency responsible for our Nation's transportation. It should be made safer and more accessible.
As far as the fuel tax Ms. Peters was discussing, there should be a large fuel tax. Gas should be $6/gallon or more like it is in Europe and we need to start paying for the true cost of our consumption. Some of the 453 billion dollars spent on the Iraq war should come from fuel taxes, as this war has been partially fueled by our obsession with cheap oil. Infrastructure and incentives for alternative fueled vehicles like electrics, biodiesel, cellulosic (not corn) ethanol can come from these taxes along with repealing the billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies. And of course, repair and maintenance of our existing infrastructure can come from this money as we slowly phase out the era of the fossil-powered vehicle.
Please realize that bicycles are an extraordinarily important part of a CO2 neutral world, they allow us exercise and reasonably rapid transport for short and medium distances with no emissions and no fuel consumption (aside from dinner). Bicycles need to be included in a responsible, forward-thinking plan for our nation's Department of Transportation.
Clint Slaughter, M.D.Emergency Medicine
San Luis Obispo, CA