I’ve said in some of my blog posts how energy-efficient, low-cost, non-polluting, very safe, and mechanically simple bicycles fundamentally are. Bicycles are the most Efficient means of Transportation devised by man. They are the panacea for local and intermediate commuting. This is a great advantage to society in solving so many of our social, economic, and environmental problems but it presents a major problem for our economic-industrial systems. In our society where jobs and large and complex corporations and governments thrive bicycle infrastructure is simply far too simple, low-cost, too safe, and too energy and resource efficient.
This country isn’t about simplicity, efficiency, low-cost, public safety, and all the other good things you hear about. It is about corporate profits and keeping jobs. Complexity, high overhead, waste, and inefficiency are key towards these ends. They are at the core that keep this country running and stimulates economic growth with jobs and circulating money. Bicycles are simply too simple and low cost. You buy one for a few hundred dollars and it last forever. I still have a 10 speed Motorbacon that I bought in 1973 that works perfectly. You may have to change a tire every couple of years but that is easily done yourself. No fuel needed and most other maintenance are easily done by yourself at almost no costs. No insurance payments or license and registration costs. Bicycle infrastructure such as bicycle paths are equally simple costing a tiny fraction that of cars. Bicycle infrastructure is often complicated and expensive just to get around roads and freeways designed exclusively for cars as well as physically protect bicycles from cars.
Serious accidents between bikes and between bicycles and pedestrians are extremely rare because of the limited speeds and weight of bicycles. Thus medical costs are low and non-life threatening. Bikes cannot catch fire or be smashed to pieced in a non-car collision. Many European countries where bicycles are more common than cars do not have helmet laws. They are needed here because of deadly collisions by cars. Due to the lack of serious accidents lawsuits would be trivial and insurance not needed for liability.
Bicyclists also need no drivers license test for proficiency and knowing the driving laws, etc. Bicycles need no crash test standards or large Department of Transportation, and fewer laws and critical law enforcement because they do not cause major accidents or pose a serious danger to the public.
Bicycles require less than 1% of the entire infrastructure of cars reducing the use of hospital due to the reduction of car accidents; need a much smaller industry with a fraction of the people used in car manufacturing to manufacture bicycles; and would reduce the demand for oil and the industries involved in the acquisition and manufacture of oil. Law enforcement can be reduce due to the reduction in serious accidents and the need to ticket people as much due to fewer consequences of infractions and consequently fewer laws. Government agencies needed to regulate and assure the safety standards of cars can be eliminated since bicycle safety is usually not life-threatening or pose a serious threat to the destruction of property. Bicycles are light weight and do not damage or significantly ware out roads thus require far less road maintenance. Fewer insurance companies and lawyers are needed due to the lack of serious accidents to body and property. The list for far fewer services and jobs goes on and on.
So many government agencies and private enterprises thrive on our dependence upon cars. Trillions of dollars are spent annually on all things related to cars. Transportation cost is the second highest expense people have other than their house. If cars were significantly reduced in our cities and replaced by bicycles we would all save huge amounts of money and save tens of thousands of lives annually but at the cost of jobs and industries related to cars. So even though governments and industries give token support for making bicycles more popular none will be Strong Advocates for far more bikes on our roads to significantly reduce the number of cars and associated lower cost of living, traffic congestion, pollution, and more safer commutes.
Our economic structure encourages profitable industries to thrive and less profitable ones to struggle. So we will continue to consume oil and produce greenhouse gases, buy large cars with high maintenance, continue killing 33,000 people and paying high insurance premiums annually, construct expensive freeways and street needing constant maintenance and upgrades, put up with traffic congestion and wasted time and energy on the road, and all the other things related to cars.
Regardless of what anyone says about simple being better, in the case of cars complicated, wasteful, unsafe, and expensive are what keep industries thriving and governments big, all in the name of jobs and profits. So what are the incentives for Powerful Advocates in large industries and big government to replace more cars with bicycles? It will have to happen some other way.
There is something seriously wrong about this picture!
Frank I take exception to the the second part of your statement that “Many European countries where bicycles are more common than cars do not have helmet laws. They are needed here because of deadly collisions by cars”. The main reason for helmets is to protect ones’ head in the case of a fall wherein the head contacts a curb or pavement. I actually know someone who died from such a (non-car related) accident. I am not aware of any evidence that shows helmets help in car collisions.
Please watch this Ted YouTube: TEDxCopenhagen – Mikael Colville-Andersen – Why We Shouldn’t Bike with a Helmet
I did not come up with this on my own. As a matter of fact in such countries as Denmark, Sweden, and The Netherlands, helmets are optional for all ages and they have been biking far more and longer than we.