This spike in gas prices will probably cost car-dependent folks more than any transit-funding or bike lane-building measure we’ve ever approved. But we won’t be left with anything to show for it. A bike network or expanded transit is an investment in community. Gas only burns.
Our reliance on gas is an enormous vulnerability in our society. We have almost no resilience against price increases. People barely scraping by are going to hurt the most. Many low-income folks live in places far away from jobs with no or poor transit service.
Biking can be a source of relief for many people, and I suspect we will see an increase in bicycling like we did during previous gas price spikes. If you can be a resource to help folks in your community get biking, do it. But moments like these make our region’s inequitable bike infrastructure so much more stark. Many communities hit hardest by gas prices are lacking safe and direct bike lanes and paths. Even communities that do have some paths are often too far from jobs to make biking widely feasible. Suburban sprawl severely inhibits biking and walking as transportation modes. A 15-mile (per direction) ride is possible for some, but not the masses.
Biking is best at getting around within a community, and transit is best at connecting communities to each other. So biking to transit is a viable option for many places. But those places need both quality transit and quality local bike facilities for this to truly work. Our region has made many improvements to biking and transit in recent years, so that’s the good news. A lot of people looking for alternatives will find them, which is great. But others will be left behind.
Investing in biking and transit is not an attack on people who drive. A bike or bus lane does not take away from car drivers. They are investments in resiliency and community strength.