by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
Paris really, really, really wants people to ditch their cars and buy electric bikes. Frankly, I didn’t even know electric bikes existed. But if you live in Paris, you can cash in — if you’re willing to give up your car. Will it spread?
Would similar schemes work in the United States to encourage more city dwellers to ditch their cars for two-wheeled machines instead? At the national level, an effort to reimburse commuter cyclists $20 a month was nixed in tax cut legislation signed by President Trump last year. But with cities looking beyond the federal government for help in combating climate change, perhaps some may see it as worthwhile. In fact, 15 mobility companies recently joined to pledge aligned mobility priorities, many of which encourage the use of bikes and shared mobility over personal vehicles in order to help cities transition toward a zero-emissions future.
Glad to know the federal tax cut/tax reform plan killed the idea of paying people to bike to work. Our Julie Tisdale has delved into the data on commuter biking, and it’s miniscule. We are a driving society. Biking isn’t, and never will be, the primary choice for commuters. Paying them isn’t going to move the needle.
There are characteristics that cities with large numbers of bicycle commuters have in common. For the most part, they’re either small or have very dense populations, both of which cut down on travel distances and make bicycling more feasible as a mode of transportation. The Census data reveals that most bicycle commutes were between 10 and 14 minutes in length. For longer trips, the numbers drop off significantly.