Another unwise federal subsidy for bicycle riders

Another unwise federal subsidy for bicycle riders

February 1st, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

There was a time when, if you wanted a bicycle, you saved up and bought one -- with your own money. Then you maintained the bicycle -- with your own money. And if you wanted to secure your bicycle when you left it somewhere, you bought a lock -- with your own money.

Today, that simple principle seems to be falling by the wayside, or by the bike path, as the case may be.

Did you read in the Times Free Press about the use of lots of your tax dollars to subsidize the choice of others who want to ride bicycles?

A multimillion-dollar federal grant is funding a program that will create a so-called "bike share" in Chattanooga. There will be more than two dozen stations around the city where, with a credit card, riders may pick up bicycles for temporary use and then return them. There are two demo stations, in front of the Chattanooga Choo Choo and at the south end of Walnut Street Bridge, but the program will have 300 bicycles at multiple stations by April.

"The public-private partnership between Alta Bike Systems and Chattanooga, funded during its first year by a $2 million federal grant, is designed to be self-sustaining after its first year," the article noted.

But if it's really a feasible idea and will be popular with the public, why not let private enterprise establish it, rather than force taxpayers to underwrite the bicycle transportation of a relative few? There is, after all, nothing in the Constitution providing for massive federal funding of such a program. And what if the program doesn't become self-sustaining after a year? Will still more tax dollars be required?

Unfortunately, this is only the latest manifestation of costly federal promotion of bicycle riding. It was recently reported that Washington would be giving bonus checks to federal employees who choose to bicycle rather than drive to work.

Bicycling is a wonderful idea, for reasons of recreation and health. But it is absurd and unconstitutional to require the many to pay for the bicycling choice of the few.