The Squeaky Bicycle Wheel Gets the Grease

Bicycle activists (I didn’t know that there were such things) achieved a significant victory this week when City Council adopted the Houston Bike Plan. Lest you think that this is a satirical piece, let me assure you that it is not. I can’t make up stuff like this.

According to the Chronicle,

the plan sets a goal of making Houston a gold-level city based on scoring by the League of American Bicyclists. In Texas, only Austin has been awarded a gold rating by the group, with Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and The Woodlands receiving bronze status, among others….

The bike plan plots tripling the amount of off-street bike trails from the current 221 miles to 668 miles. Much of that relies on trail connections along bayous and within parks and electrical transmission utility easements.

At a time that the city faces an assortment of financial crises, getting a gold-level score from a bicycle league hardly seems like a priority. But this is what occurs when government expands beyond its proper function of protecting individual rights.

Bicycle activists comprise a very small number of Houstonians. According to the Census Bureau, about .5 percent of Houstonians ride their bike to work (it’s wonderful that the government collects such data). But that small number is apparently very vocal, and they have been pressuring city officials to pander to their desire for more bike trails.

When local government expands beyond its proper functions–the police and courts–this type of special interest politics is inevitable. City Council becomes a magnet for interest groups to press for their pet projects, and in the end, those who make the most noise will get the grease.

But the deeper issue isn’t  bike trails or special bike lanes. The deeper issue is that this is just another step in the city’s planning agenda. The city has made it clear that it wants to control development within Houston, and it has made it clear that planning is a “tool” that it will use. The more the city plans, the more the city controls. Whether that planning is aimed at protecting neighborhoods or mandating bike trails as a part of new development is just a detail.

Comments are closed.