E-bikes are a solid choice for personal mobility, particularly in cities where traveling by car is frustratingly slow. They’re also expensive. Naturally, some Democrats in Congress recently proposed an e-bike subsidy that would slash 30 percent, up to $1,500, off the cost of any e-bike for taxpayers making less than $150,000 per year. Unfortunately, we’re living in the year 2023, which means that proponents of the bill are getting dragged into yet another culture war. And this one involves the son of the former CEO of American Motors.
Insider has a good article on this, compiling a range of reactions to the e-bike bill from conservatives, including Utah Senator Mitt Romney, whose dad George served as chairman and president of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962.
Romney takes issue with the government spending any dollars at all to make e-bikes cheaper, but he also doesn’t want to see federal funding go toward carving out space on our roadways for bicycles, because he thinks they’re dumb. Here’s what he had to say, as quoted by Insider:
“I’m not going to spend money on buying e-bikes for people like me who have bought them — they’re expensive,” he said. “Removing automobile lanes to put in bike lanes is, in my opinion, the height of stupidity, it means more cars backing up, creating more emissions.”
There are so many glaring logical issues within that short quote, it’s almost impressive. First, yes — e-bikes are expensive, which is why the bill was proposed. Second, I fully believe Mitt Romney could afford one, because five years ago he made $22 million.
Third, when you create more lanes for car traffic, what you get is more car traffic. This isn’t a theory — it’s the reality of induced demand, and there have been far too many examples of it globally for anyone involved in this conversation to feign ignorance about it. If anything, creating bike lanes encourages some drivers to ride a bike instead, which takes cars off the road, which reduces emissions.
Romney recommended that would-be bicyclists take mass transit instead. I’m sure they’d love to, if we didn’t live in a country where public transit options largely suck, if they exist at all.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight another superb excerpt from Insider’s piece, courtesy of Tim Carney, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute:
“There is a widespread suspicion on the right today that liberals want to take away their way of life,” Carney told Insider. “This idea that the left knows there’s only one right way to live, it’s the way that we want to live and we’re going to force it on you. That is in the background of the mind of every conservative, and so when they hear more bike lanes, they think, ‘Okay, what is that code for?’”
It’s code for nothing. Really! People just want to be able to get where they need to go, honest. Cars are too expensive, and our elected officials care not at all to do anything about that. Gas is too expensive, but politicians on big oil’s payroll are actively sabotaging ways of making EVs more affordable. Trains are crashing and spewing toxic hell left and right.
I don’t own a bicycle myself, but I’m pretty sure cyclists don’t really care how anyone else travels. Though as long as we’re on the subject of “forcing a way of life” on other people, nobody living near a roadway trafficked by freight trucks asked their life expectancy to be cut short by pollution, and nobody with a uterus is begging for their constitutional right to interstate travel to be obstructed. For certain individuals, I’m sure that the mere suggestion of an American trading a Wrangler for a RadRunner is enough to rupture the very fabric of this country, much like the imaginary death of gas stoves. But maybe, just maybe, e-bike proponents and bike-lane supporters are just searching for a modest, relatively inexpensive way to get around.