Economics, environment can go together |

Economics, environment can go together

by Garry Bowen

We are now approaching the fifth year of the 10-year window thought to be the point of no return in preserving Lake Tahoe’s hallowed clarity, and a full five summers since I extolled the virtues of a “well planned extensive biking system” throughout the Tahoe area. It’s time for another look at what’s being done about how we might get around.

In July 1996, I wrote, in this very paper, that “Opening up Tahoe to further bicycling experiences would allow a strong three-way linkage: Economic, ecological and experiential. Economic interests are served very well with the demographics of the biking world and air and water quality are served as well by a reduction in auto traffic in the basin. Lastly, what people experience by visiting Tahoe fits very well with what bicycling means around the nation and the world. Tahoe is in a perfect position to capitalize on several long-term trends.”

The most impactful and “self-fulfilled” of the prophecies at that time was that traffic on most highway networks would only “get worse, not better.” A recent census 2000 supplemental survey of 700,000 households reveals that the average commute is longer in both time and distance by at least 10 percent. This is perhaps why the No. 2 Caltrans official issued deputy directive 64 stating that “bicycling and walking” are to be central elements in transportation planning in California. Maybe this is finally an acknowledgement that transportation enhancements (known as TEA 21) are actually useful in easing traffic woes and that they contribute to quality of life. Maybe that political will can filter down to current Caltrans planning on highways 28, 50, 89 and 267 for the betterment of us all.

Along with the policy directive just mentioned, locally we have the emergence of the Measure S bond passage and the recently critiqued CTS (Coordinated Transit System). As the Measure S issues are well enough along, I believe that the CTS is worthy of further comment.

There are no qualms with the concept of better coordinating the myriad transit offerings now available, notwithstanding its technically complex implementation. However, in light of evolving transportation issues elsewhere, a more diversified and holistic approach may be necessary to achieve ecologic, economic and experiential success.

As the idea that a reduction in automobile usage is paramount of our overall quality of life (gaining momentum everywhere), optimizing a coordinated transit system by incorporating that “well-planned extensive biking system” would add a lot of value and credibility to critical sustainable issues. As well, the holistic component might well take the “all roads lead to Rome” edge off of the current transit image.

After all, it was no less a person than Steve Wynn, late of Las Vegas’ Mirage and former Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board member, who was quoted as saying that a casino floor is now “a thing which people pass on their way to visit the things that really matter to them.” A prescient thought. For him, it translated into an art museum within; for Tahoe, it could mean a fuller realization of what truly differentiates us from other places a visiting public might go: Our outdoors.

And for those who might assume that biking is just another recreation activity, consider the slogan of bicycle advocates in Quebec, after 25 years and hundreds of miles of pathways: “It’s not just sport, it’s transport.”

Garry Bowen, who works mostly with sustainability issues, is a co-founder of Tahoe Region Advocates for Cycling (TRAC), created to advocate for, and be proponents of, a basin-wide biking network. Comments can be directed to or P.O. Box 11322; Zephyr Cove, Nev. 89448-3322.

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