There’s been a lot of talk lately about bailing out the Big Three automakers.
And yes, I have no doubt that it will happen. Once again, we’ll reward total incompetence in business management by bailing out the corporate leaders who forgot the painful lessons Detroit learned following the oil embargoes of the 1970s (here and here). Instead, they chose to market massive, socially irresponsible, gas-guzzling vehicles that sold millions of cars while helping to drive up gas prices — until oil prices skyrocketed, and they were stuck with cars no one wanted.
And once again, they find themselves struggling to learn the lessons they should have learned four decades ago.
So Congress will throw yet more money at yet more businesses deemed too large to fail; meanwhile, countless small businesses will go under without so much as a dime offered to help keep them, and their employees, afloat.
Just business as usual.
But what could help those businesses, and with them, the rest of us, is the proposed 2nd stimulus package that is currently under discussion in Washington.
Because this time, instead of mailing out checks to everyone — yeah, that did a lot of good — they’re talking about making a real investment in America’s infrastructure. Something that would actually help create jobs and put people to work, and at the same time, spread the wealth a little as those people spend their new paychecks.
But now it’s up to us to help keep them honest, and make sure that money is spent on something that will make a difference now, not years down the road — like the proposed Subway to the Sea, which even if they started tomorrow, wouldn’t see its first rider for decades.
The L.A. County Bike Coalition has their ideas on how to spend the money. And while it makes a lot of sense, I have my own suggestion.
Spend the money — every penny of it — on fixing bridges and roadways.
Bridges, because we all remember what happened in Minnesota. No one wants to see that kind of devastation repeated, but with hundreds, if not thousands of substandard bridges around the country, there’s a high probability it will if something isn’t done.
Roadways, because no one who rides or drives in Los Angeles has to be told how bad the roads have become. Like the corrugated surface of Pico Blvd between Sepulveda and the 405, which has been badly patched so many times it feels like you’re riding the Oregon Trail in a Conestoga. Or the intersection of Ventura Blvd and Van Nuys, where the bus-burrowed ruts are deep enough to bottom-out a small car like mine. And sometimes do.
Now multiply that by hundreds of thousands of roadways throughout California and around the nation. Roadways that waste time and gas, resulting in longer commutes, higher gas costs and more smog and greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
All it would take is repaving those streets to cut costs, save time and reduce emissions. Not 10 years from now, but in a matter of months. And at the same time, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
And why does this matter to cyclists? Simple.
They could paint new bike lanes on every road in town. But it won’t matter if they’re too rough and rutted to ride.