Bikes and HOT Lanes

BannerpicSunday's Washington Post Outlook section published an op-ed piece by Bruce Wright, chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling that was spot on. His key point being that as Virginia moves forward with $1.7 billion of investment to move cars better (the new HOT Lanes), the state absolutely needs to think comprehensively about other modes--in particular cycling. Currently it is difficult or impossible to cross the beltway on a bicycle along most routes. Although I have heard of people doing it, it's pretty terrifying for me to imagine riding on Route 50 where it crosses I-495. Most of the other crossings are no better. There are undoubtedly thousands of people who live only a few miles from their jobs or from other places they want to go, but the Beltway is in between, forcing them to drive those short distances.

In fact, VDOT's Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations makes this statement: "The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will initiate all highway construction projects with the presumption that the projects shall accommodate bicycling and walking." Here's a golden opportunity for VDOT to demonstrate that it is not just paying lip service and--in contrast to its performance as reported in a previous post on a VDOT missed opportunity--really understands the value of bicycling and walking as viable travel choices.

Thanks, Bruce, for getting this key issue into the Post where our policy makers are more likely to see it.

Smarter than a 5th-Grader?

HurricaneThe Friday, October 19, Washington Post ran an article by Juliet Eilperin in which she reported that the administration's Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, John H. Marburger III, said that the target of preventing Earth from warming more than two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, "is going to be a very difficult
one to achieve and is not actually linked to regional events that affect people's lives."

I agree with the first part: it will be difficult to achieve. However, the second part of that statement is undeniably false and, in fact, regional events are already affecting people's lives and are only going to get more severe. The 2003 European heat waves resulted in more than 20,000 excess lives lost and has been linked by scientists to global warming. If that is not a 'regional event that affects people's lives,' I don't know what is. Storm scientists have documented increased storm intensities of tropical storms, including storms like Katrina, which strike me as significant regional events (note of caution here: it is impossible to know if Katrina or any particular storm is more severe due to global warming; what we do know is that the tendency for storms to be stronger is going up.)

MarburgerIt is frustrating to see high-powered officials in the federal government with their heads so deeply buried in the sand. I was recently in the library with my son and browsing in the young adult section. I noticed a book called "Global Warming," and was of course interested in seeing what teenagers might be reading on the subject. Glancing through I noted that the science was solid but a good deal of the information seemed out of date, so I checked the publication date: 1988!! Yes, twenty years ago the basic science on climate change was already pretty much settled and here we are twenty years later with powerful political figures who are--to steal from a popular TV show--dumber than a 5th grader.