Monday, January 19, 2009

Public Policy in the Market Place and Cycling

Part of my misspent youth was consumed being nurtured in the same bosom as Laffer's Supply Side Economics. Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that when congress was first debating the CAFE requirements in the 70's I was convinced they could never work. Detroit of course was taking the attitude that the market "demands" gas guzzlers and that was all they could make.

Along comes the 1979 gas crunch and fuel costs are going through the roof. By 1986 the price of gas is less in real dollars than it was in 1979. Many factors caused that to happen and one of the major ones was the CAFE requirements imposed on Detroit in the late 70's. Americans were driving more on less fuel than before. Of course, by 2008, gas guzzlers were prevalent again, but that is another story...

What does this have to do with Cycling? Reading the blogs of Jolly Crank and Freewheel I get a real sense of the frustrations and obstacles that commuting cyclists have to overcome to do the socially responsible thing and pedal instead of drive.

Maybe it is time we apply some Public Policy in the Market Place to the issue of commuter cyclists. Since we would prefer folks ride instead of drive when ever possible, maybe it would make sense to require auto companies to create and dedicate a certain distance of sole use unpowered commuter ways for every 1 million gallons of gas consumption they sell? The more efficient the vehicles produced, the less commuter ways they have to create.

It sounds like a start.............


The Jolly Crank said...

Hey, that's a creative, market inspired way to attack a problem! My box leans too far left for me to think out of it sometimes. But our country is going to need some pretty creative solutions in the coming years, solutions that industry leaders can take.

Freewheel said...

As the summer of '08 proved, an effective way to get people to drive less is high gas prices. So I've always been in favor of a high gas tax (at the pumps only, not for heating), akin to the tax on tobacco. Cars, like tobacco, are bad for the public's health.

jj mollo said...

I like your idea of connecting auto sales having a certain fuel consumption to a compensating penance. I would prefer a straight gas tax, but your idea is probably more palatable to the taxpayers and would have a similar effect.

I've been in favor of a high gas tax since John Anderson (a Republican) proposed it in 1980. It's always seemed like the most logical solution to me.

The reason gas prices came down so dramatically was probably because of the economic downturn. The fact that prices are creeping up again could be good news about the economy (or bad news about the currency.

Another way to control fuel use is to require a certain percentage of ethanol. That has its initial downside, but will keep prices up and C02 down. Furthermore, the ethanol money stays in the US, unlike oil which just makes our enemies richer.

If you're still biking through the winter, I'm very impressed.

Leesa said...

I have heard a site that talks about being a good "walking city." We need to know where there are good biking cities as well.