Making Bicycling Environmentally-Friendly Again

In 2005, San Francisco was poised to begin construction of a network of bike lanes. But that same year, San Francisco’s plans came screeching to a halt when a local gadfly with an anti-bike bee under his bonnet filed a lawsuit. To the surprise of San Francisco’s bicycle advocates, the lawsuit alleged that by making room for cyclists on San Francisco’s streets, bicycle lanes would create more air pollution. Although this seems counter-intuitive, the lawsuit alleged that bicycle lanes would increase automobile traffic congestion, and this congestion would have a negative impact on air quality. And because the bike lanes had a potentially significant impact on air quality, the lawsuit argued that the city was required to conduct an environmental review of the project—which it had not done.

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From "Whoa!" to "Who?"

What a difference a few weeks makes. On Thanksgiving, we reported that President-elect Obama’s short-list of candidates for Secretary of transportation included three strong cycling advocates, two of them nationally-known:
 
Representative Jim Oberstar — A Minnesota Democrat and nationally-renowned member of the Congressional Bike Caucus. Representative Oberstar chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Representative Earl Blumenauer — A Democrat representing Portland, Oregon, Representative Blumenauer—another nationally renowned Congressional Bike Caucus member and founder of the Bike Caucus—sits on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Representative Peter DeFazio — Another Oregon Democrat, and yet another member of the Congressional Bike Caucus, Representative DeFazio is a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
 
While other short-list names were also being bandied about, the buzz around these cycling advocates was so strong that we had reason to hope for the best. Supporting that hope were candidate Obama’s own words from his record-breaking Portland rally:

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