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EDITOR'S DESK: Big engine behind Nonmotorized Plan

By Kenyon Jordan

        The headline over the Westside Pioneer article, posted Nov. 16, says the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) is seeking comments from supporters of its Nonmotorized Plan update. And indeed, as the story reports, if you believe that the area needs pedestrian/bicycle improvements and have suggestions on where to put them, the PPACG has an interactive website waiting for you.
       Ah, but what about people who don't support the concept, or at least have cost/value questions? What if you are even concerned, like Westsider/County

Commissioner Sallie Clark, about going too far with pedestrian/bicycle upgrades?
       Sorry, but those people will have to wait their turn. General feedback will not be sought until a draft plan is ready for review, most likely in January, according to PPACG information.
       OK, I can understand the thinking here, at least to a point. Yes, there are problems for bikers and hikers, including on the Westside: Bike lanes appear and then disappear. Street crossings can be scary. Trails are incomplete. Plus (PPACG staff could reasonably argue), all they're doing right now is gathering information - an innocent-enough exercise…
       Except for the reality that taking supporter input exclusively at this point gives that side of the matter a huge head start. Before less enthusiastic remarks even have a chance to come in from the public at large, staffers at the regional planning agency will already have a wad of favorable comments that can be impressively packaged for the elected PPACG board as a sign that the community is behind them.
       If that sounds overly skeptical, I'm sorry. It would be nice if the Nonmotorized Plan in general were being proposed in a pro/con sort of way by dispassionate government engineers, working purely in a spirit of service to the community at large. Instead, there's this unavoidable sense of being pushed along by people with a point of view and if you don't share it, there's something wrong with you.
       The opening sentence of the Executive Summary in the current Nonmotorized Plan (published in 2008) makes no bones about it: “It is generally accepted that walking and bicycling, as opposed to driving a personal vehicle, promote physical health and lower stress, reduce harmful emissions, and save money and energy.”
       Really? “It is generally accepted…” by whom? If we all walked or biked to our jobs, would that unquestionably “save money and energy”? Maybe, if you live less than a mile from work. How many people are lucky enough to say that? Also, because of increased commute times, there would be lost productivity. More money and energy wasted. And as for the physical and mental aspects, have you ever gone on a major shopping trip on foot or a bicycle? How about in the rain or on ice? Between the bodily strain of hauling multiple bags, the effort to avoid falling and the chance of being robbed, I would say no, such an activity does not necessarily “promote physical health and lower stress.”
       I found the following information interesting from Appendix F of the current Nonmotorized Plan. It cites the statistic that the “bicycle mode share of total transportation trips” in Colorado Springs amounts to 1 percent - considered low, the appendix notes, compared to 5 percent in Minneapolis. A seemingly logical response to that news would be that bicycling is not a very big deal here. But instead the plan jumps right into a bulleted list of "actions [to] help our region achieve its full bicycling potential.”
       To summarize, the Nonmotorized Plan effort is using a strategy similar to that of a lot of other politically correct movements in modern times: You stake out a position that's morally unassailable (zero pollution in this case), you play on guilt (cars cause “harmful emissions,” remember?) and you personify victims (those risk-taking pedestrians and cyclists). From there, it's a short step to favoritism (such as seeking comments from NonMot supporters only at first). Then all that's left is taking action and luring as much federal funding as possible. The latter point is a particularly tough one for elected officials. Say no to federal funding? And cost your region money? How do you expect to get re-elected? And then there's the strength-in-numbers aspect, so that (as Appendix F points up) the goal is not just to alleviate the pain of the victims but to create more of them. I'll bet you never considered how much a pedestrian/cycling plan has in common with illegal immigration!
       Finally, in regard to NonMot, I'd like to paraphrase a well-known, oft-repeated statement from a certain public official in recent years: “If we don't like the plan, do we have to keep the plan?”

(Posted 11/17/14; Opinion: Editor's Desk)

Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

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