Monday, September 19, 2005

One Man's Pork

Is another man's bike path, apparently. I was browsing Porkbusters and noted that the only pork they can find in Madison is spending on bike paths*. The argument -- "Wisconsin. Cold. Bike/pedestrian path - bad idea and unused for a large portion of the year" -- is really rather terrible. The paths are heavily used when there is no ice or snow on the ground (April - November) and when there is ice and snow some still use them: for biking (the hard core) and skiing and such. Plus, when they are used they are both recreational and commuter -- both things conservatives should like: facilitating the battle of the bulge in a personal responsibility kind of way, and reducing consumption of oil. And it gives kids somewhere safe to bike (and roadies like myself ways to terrorize the general populace).

The bigger objection is the class issue: that you are spending money on a fundamentally middle class (and rich) pursuit. I bike on the Southwest bike path in Madison. On the south side of Madison, inside the Beltline it is middle class and up; outside the Beltline poor it is poor (and black). Before the Beltline, you see lots of kids with a parent riding with them. Past the Beltline, you see equally young kids messing around in the grass next to the path -- something they could have done (and did do) on the old train tracks. Clearly there is a value-added for the middle class (who couldn't bike on the train tracks), and no value for the poor. But then, no conservative would want to pull out that argument.

Any non-tendentious conservative arguments against bike paths?

*If it's in Madison, which it is, it's Tammy Baldwin in the 2nd and not Petri in the 6th, but I quibble.

Update: The obvious objection is that this is an appropriate function for city, county or state governments and not the federal government. Which is fair, to a point. It is the city which has identified the need, and the federal government is just helping fund the project. I've always understood federalism to be about how local governments know best what to do, not necessarily that they have access to the money to do the best things. But then local taxation is maybe more accountable than federal taxation?

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