Bicycle boondoggles

Bicycle boondoggles

July 17th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Could someone pinpoint the precise moment when it became the responsibility of non-bicycle-riding Americans to foot the bill for others to ride?

Federal lawmakers and bureaucrats obviously believe that it's the proper and constitutional role of government to force taxpayers to underwrite the expense of buying and maintaining bicycles for public use.

As you may know, Bike Chattanooga snagged $2 million in taxpayers' money to pay startup costs and operations for the first year of a program to let people use a debit or credit card to check out bicycles at dozens of "bike share" locations around the city.

While the bike share scheme continues to burn through the government handout, it remains in a "testing phase" and has not been widely launched in Chattanooga. The program's supporters, however, believe that the program will be able to stand on its own two wheels eventually.

We can hope. It would be a shame to see good tax dollars thrown after bad to promote a program that the federal government has no business being involved with in the first place.

If the Chattanooga bike boondoggle weren't bad enough, now there appears to be at least some official interest in a similar effort in Ringgold, Ga.

City Councilman Nick Millwood arranged a recent presentation for the council there about the Chattanooga program.

"It would be nice to see a few less cars and more bikes," he said.

And in some ways, Millwood may have a point. Bicycling promotes good health and an appreciation for the outdoors. It also conserves fuel.

Nothing wrong with that.

But the number of cars and bicycles on the road should be determined by the free-market choices of consumers, as they weigh costs of gasoline and automobile maintenance against whether it is practical to try to meet a significant portion of their transportation needs with a bicycle.

They don't need a gentle shove from Washington in the form of subsidies for bicycles.

In fairness, Millwood's plans for a bike share program and the ways he would seek to fund it are not yet fully fleshed out. The Times Free Press reported that he intended to go door to door to generate support among residents. It would be perfectly appropriate if private citizens and businesses pooled their resources voluntarily to promote the greater use of bicycles, if they so wish.

But the same article noted that individuals involved in Chattanooga's federally funded program "will be willing to help area communities to find grants to help set up similar bike shares."

Please don't! Taxpayers can't afford anymore two-wheel welfare programs like the Chattanooga bike share project.

With the United States $16 trillion in debt, it's time to focus on fiscal survival, rather than ensuring that there's a federally subsidized bicycle on every corner.