“It’s Wow Wednesday! U.S. sets record in 2016 with an estimated 3.2 trillion miles traveled.” – Tweet from the Federal Highway Administration.
This is not good news. The “wow” here is that the Federal Highway Administration does not understand that we need to encourage people to drive less, not more. Driving 3.2 trillion miles is not an accomplishment, but rather a failure. It is in the best interest for our country that we promote alternative transportation options, not the consumption and exhaustion of the world’s remaining fossil fuels.
This is in excusable. Government agencies should not promote driving. Conservation of fossil fuels should be the goal. We are killing each other in our cars at a record setting pace, according to a report in Fortune:
[P]reliminary 2016 data shared Wednesday from the National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicles crashes last year, a 6% rise from 2015. If those numbers bear out, it would be a 14% increase in deaths since 2014, the biggest two-year jump in more than five decades. It also means that 2016 may have been the deadliest year on U.S. roads since 2007, the NSC says.
I live in Virginia, which according to the Americans for Modern Transportation graphic below has less than 7 percent of its roads listed as in poor condition. The report emphasizes that deficient bridges, congested highways, and potholes are the worst of the issues. The Rust Belt and especially states like Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have it much worse than Virginia.
As a cyclist, I feel I am more likely to be impacted by potholes and poor road conditions than most drivers. Hitting a pothole with small bike tires can leave you stranded, sometimes in places you may not be safe.
Who is going to pay for road improvements? How about we increase the federal gas tax for starters? It was last raised, in the year 1993, to 18.4 cents per gallon. In 2015, about 140.43 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in the United States, a daily average of about 384.74 million gallons per day, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.
If we boosted it 3 cents, that would be an extra $4.21 billion in funds (using 2015 figures). Sure, motorists would notice the increase in fuel tax, but they are the ones who drive on the roads, their money should go to its repair. Remember, our road network is subsidized, we just don’t think of it that way.
What, are you upset that cyclists don’t pay? Don’t get me started. Cyclists are tax payers too, and they are often also drivers. Bicycles do very little damage to roadways, so Mother Nature is usually the main culprit to damage on bike paths and multi-use trails. On roadways, the damage comes from heavy cars, trucks and buses.