James Dearden, Lehigh University, reviews the WSJ article "San Francisco Ponders: Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution?" in the Micro Weekly Review ("Easily Integrate These Wall Street Journal Articles in Your Class ").
San Francisco Ponders: Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution?
by Phred Dvorak
Aug 20, 2008
TOPICS: Cost Benefit Analysis, Environmental Regulation
SUMMARY: Plans to expand San Francisco's bicycle infrastructure, including bike lanes and racks, have been put on hold thanks to local gadfly Rob Anderson. The 65-year-old successfully sued for an environmental review, arguing the plan would cause more pollution.
CLASSROOM APPLICATION: The article offers a great point about regulation and measuring the value of the regulation. When deciding whether to construct bicycle-only lanes in cities, the effect of the lanes on congestion should be included. "Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, [political activist Rob Anderson] reasons, so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution. Mr. Anderson says the city has been blinded by political correctness. It's an 'attempt by the anti-car fanatics to screw up our traffic on behalf of the bicycle fantasy,' he wrote in his blog this month." The cost of not designating bicycle-only lanes: "Cyclists say the irony is killing them -- literally. At least four bikers have died and hundreds more have been injured in San Francisco since mid-2006."
1. (Introductory) Do bicycle-only lanes, which encourage workers to commute, reduce pollution and gasoline consumption?
2. (Advanced) What is the opportunity cost to society of designative bicycle-only lanes? What is the cost to bicyclists of not designating the lanes?
3. (Advanced) What criterion should cities use to determine whether to designate more bicycle lanes?