North Carolina congresscritter Patrick McHenry: 19th century technology no solution to energy woes.
On my bicycle commute in high-tech Silicon Valley, California, I see up to 100 other bike commuters every day, most of whom are employed as chip designers, rocket scientists, robot researchers, high-energy physicists and biogenetic engineers. The biggest employer in North Carolina 10th District Congressman Patrick McHenry’s home in Catawba County, on the other hand, is the “retail trade” sector. Yep, the highest tech they have is the point-of-sale system at Burger King.
Streetsblog reports on North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry, who said regarding pending energy legislation:
The Democrats’ answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle.
Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pumps, is: Ride a bike.
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Democrats, promoting 19th century solutions to 21st century problems. If you don’t like it, ride a bike. If you don’t like the price at the pumps, ride a bike.
Streetsblog implies and commentors note that the automobile and the internal combustion engine is also 19th century technology, as are lightbulbs, phones, radios, railroads, guns, photography, refrigerators, stethoscopes, and even paved roads! Many modern bicycles, in fact, require advanced technologies, materials and manufacturing processes that did not exist in the 19th or even 20th centuries.
McHenry is probably buddies with Dr. David Hartgen, emeritus professor of transportation and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who writes policy papers for the John Locke Foundation. Complete Streets advocates such as senior citizens and paraplegics, Hartgen says, “It’s really just arrogance and selfishness on the part of usually very small groups of individuals. They exert political power to ‘take back the street,’ but the street is not theirs to take back.”
Professor Hartgen needs a history lesson: The streets have always belonged to all the people. Longtime New Mexico bike commuter Khal Spencer is quoted in a recent edition of CenterLines from the National Center for Bicycling and Walking:
Our roadways have always been designed with the intention of being shared by multiple users. A road is simply a paved structure meant to accommodate a given width and weight of vehicle. The first paved roads were in fact lobbied for by bicyclists in the last part of the nineteenth century and were later shared by early automobiles. Since then, a myriad of ‘other’ users including Amish buggies, farm equipment, bicyclists, and other slow-moving vehicles have legally shared the road with motorists. While that has undoubtedly required the occasional patience and understanding, it has always been considered a mark of good citizenship to responsibly share the roads. The present animosity between a small fraction of cyclists and a small fraction of motorists is more personality driven and should not detract from the safe interactions among most adult drivers and cyclists.
The rise in popularity in cycling has indeed given rise to an equally popular cyclist’s lobbying movement to incorporate cycling-specific design into new roadway construction or renovation. While there are differences in details among various special interest groups, what virtually everyone, whether motorized or not, agrees on is to provide added width (shoulders, bike lanes, wide traffic lanes) so that cyclists and motor vehicles traveling at different speeds can get past each other without encroaching into oncoming traffic. However, while such improvements are wonderful, they do not detract from our present roadway’s ability to be shared safely by competent, compliant users.
North Carolina cyclists, you can let your Representative how you feel about your “19th Century technology” by calling him at 202.225.2576 in Washington DC, or toll-free in North Carolina at 800-477-2576. More contact information is on his website. 10th Congressional District residents and businesses can contact him via the web here.
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