Bicycle quote: “Bicycles are not transportation”

Fairfax County (VA) Supervisor John Cook:

“I don't believe a bicycle is a transportation device. I think it's a recreation device. The big problem is people don't want to ride their bike in the rain or get sweaty before work.”

— As reported in the Washington Examiner and repeated at Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) and DCStreetsblog.

Like FABB said, Supervisor Cook needs to get out more. I think he's just speaking from his personal, insulated experience.

All weather vehicle

People will ride their bicycles to work in rainy and cold weather. They even commute by bicycle in warm weather. People who don't work will ride their bicycles to the store or to their appointments instead of using a car.

If Supervisor Cook doesn't see many bicycle commuters when he peers through the windshield of his car, maybe it's because he hasn't helped provide the citizens of his county a good network of bike lanes and bike paths so they can ride safely.

When the Census published its bicycle commuting trends in its American Community Survey, 9 of the top 10 cities with the highest share of bicycle commuters all had something in common — 9 were listed on the League of American Bicyclists list of bicycle-friendly cities. That means the League judged those cities are taking care of bicyclists who ride to work, errands and pleasure.

Not majority

Cook's lame-brained comment came up during a discussion of $12.7 million in pedestrian and bicycle projects for the Reston area, partly to improve access to transit stations. Fortunately, Cook doesn't hold the majority viewpoint. Supervisor Don Foust told the Examiner:

“I don't agree with him. People don't do it now — not because they don't want to — but because they can't. It's not safe.”

There are lots of uninformed people who hold Cook's opinion that, basically, bicycles are toys. Well, a lot of people do use them for recreation, but a lot use them as a means to get around, too. Many use them for both. Here's a spreadsheet compiled by the League of American Bicyclists for bicycle commuting rates in the 70 largest cities.

Update: Feb. 26, 2010 — Looking for ways to make up a budget shortfall, Fairfax County completely axed its bicycle program.

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