May 25, 2000: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Journalism: Speaking Out: Madison Capital Times: Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Cars Should Take A Back Seat

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cameroon: Special Reports: Camerooon RPCV and Political Columnist Margaret Krome: November 11, 2004: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Election2004: Journalism: The Capital Times: Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Vote shows media failed : May 25, 2000: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Journalism: Speaking Out: Madison Capital Times: Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Cars Should Take A Back Seat

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Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Cars Should Take A Back Seat

Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Cars Should Take A Back Seat

Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Cars Should Take A Back Seat

Cars Should Take A Back Seat
by Margaret Krome

Sweating and gasping, I chug up the steep hill near my house in what passes for my old bike's first gear. Halfway up the hill I get off the seat and pump side-to-side, muttering a mantra about tightening those stomach muscles, harnessing my power, and really getting near the top. Finally I crest the hill and coast along for a block or so in perfect, steaming joy.

With my office in my basement, I pay my homage to Bike-to-Work Week with family bike rides and excursions to the store. But a growing number of people are bike commuting to work, joining a trend that makes sense from many angles. Not only does it avoid parking hassles, start and end the day pleasantly, and avoid nasty radio talk shows, it also relieves stress and promotes cardiovascular fitness.

But there's another crucial reason to bike. It's pollution-free. With 59 percent of car trips being five miles or less (76 percent are 10 miles or less), automobiles are creating more and more pollution as people use them for purposes near to home. Even with the much cleaner cars and trucks developed in the last 35 years, we use and depend on cars more -- much more -- than we did in the '60s and are losing the air pollution fight.

For my friend Theresa, who bikes downtown to work most days, automobile pollution has a very personal face -- her older son's asthma. While there are many possible reasons for his asthma, she and her husband worry that living close to University Avenue's commuter corridor has resulted in high exposures to ozone and similar vehicle-caused pollutants. Studies increasingly implicate air pollution, including car and truck exhausts, as asthma triggers.

Back in the early 1990s, Congress recognized the need to better support environmentally sound transportation alternatives and passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. That law set aside money to develop mass transportation, biking and similar environmentally sound alternatives.

But it didn't mandate the allocation of those dollars, and for years Wisconsin was among the bottom 10 states in spending those federal dollars for biking and pedestrian projects. Last year, biking and clean air advocates succeeded in pressuring the state Department of Transportation to spend more of these earmarked dollars, and it now spends more than $10 million on biking and pedestrian projects.

Growing up in a coastal community, I used to fantasize as I biked to work that the bus system would give me passage across the city's many bridges and tunnels. I dreamed of bike lanes and bike paths. Now I live in Madison, with bike paths lacing the city and a bus system that's learning how to transport bikes. As I bike along, I appreciate clean, well-paved streets and dodge the ruts and glass slivers in others. I'm grateful for wide shoulders on main roads, but wish I didn't have to breathe the exhaust of long lines of commuters while I wait to cross streets in my in-town neighborhood.

Federal and other investments in biking have made a difference, but they're not close to meeting the need. And they don't compare with the state's annual spending of $730 million on highways, not including the state Department of Transportation's call for increases of $4 billion over the next 20 years. In Madison, the tremendous spending on highways and roads and our failure to build pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods result in problems like Theresa's son breathing more fumes of more commuters every day, the deterioration of air quality and increasing congestion in my neighborhood as commuters treat it as their favorite route home. The state must reduce its bloated highway budget, which feeds many transportation problems in the first place.

W e should balance our historic excessive highway spending with funding for high-speed rail, alternatives to congestion like fast rail transit and more pedestrian and bike facilities. If we don't, we will continue the cycle of city folks using those perfect and expensive new roads for suburban growth farther and farther into the countryside, thereby destroying the heart of the country, the heart of the city, and the health of our children.

Margaret Krome is a Madison resident who writes this column every other week.

© 2000 The Capital Times

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Madison Capital Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cameroon; Journalism; Speaking Out



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