War on Cars

By Terri Hall l July 7, 2011

Some may have never heard the term “complete streets” or “walkable communities” so allow me to enlighten you. The “Complete Streets” policy of one particular Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) says “it will serve to provide safe access for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and bus riders.” Sounds harmless, right? There’s more. It also says the benefits include “encouraging walking and bicycling, eases transportation mobility, encourages children to become more physically active along withreducing air emissions from single occupancy vehicles.

By now you may be asking how does providing safe access to roads translate into reducing single occupancy vehicles? Because the “Complete Streets” initiatives aren’t about adding curbs and sidewalks (which indeed are needed to accommodate pedestrians and the disabled) as much as about declaring an all-out war on cars. Like “complete streets,” the “walkable communities” is code for the United Nations’ Agenda 21 initiatives that seek to abolish private property, reduce the carbon footprint of humans, restrict mobility, and basically control what we eat, how many children we can have, how we travel, and where we can live, work, and play — initiatives which are already being implemented through ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability in over 600 cities nationwide and in 178 countries worldwide.

Organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures are promoting key Agenda 21 policies, including drafting sample legislation for your state representative to take home and push to become law in your state. “Complete Streets” policies and public private partnerships (a.k.a. PPPs and P3s) were both on the agenda of last year’s conference and Texas State Representative Linda Harper Brown came back and introduced legislation for both initiatives this year, but her attempts to pass a state “Complete Streets” policy failed due to the efforts of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF). However, some Texas cities have already done so at the local level through their MPOs, including Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.

For instance, the San Antonio MPO has adopted into its bylaws a “Complete Streets” policy that requires ALL future transportation improvement projects to include bicycle and pedestrian facilities. That means take already scarce highway funds and mandate part of them be spent on bike and pedestrian trails or sidewalks, etc. Few if any state highways are the appropriate place for sidewalks or pedestrians. So it likely means the practical application of this is to use highway funds to build hike and bike trails elsewhere as part of every highway project. Any exceptions must be “adequately documented” and “bicycle and pedestrian components included in a project cannot be deleted from the project at a future date in accordance with this policy.”

The policy not only heists already scarce gas tax revenues to pay for other modes of transportation, but also grows government bureaucracy. For example, the San Antonio MPO has a full time “Bicycle/Pedestrian Planner.” The City of San Antonio has also added a full-time “Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.” In 2009, the city hired a new Sustainable Transportation Coordinator, Julia Diana, as part of the City of San Antonio’s Office of Environmental Policy. Diana’s background has little to do with transportation and more to do with preserving open space. She’s served on the Linear Creekway Parks Advisory Board and is a founding board member of the Voelcker Park Conservancy.

“What we need to do is make biking and walking easier. I live in the suburbs and have access to very little infrastructure which promotes biking. I would gladly ride to my local H.E.B. [a grocery chain in Texas], but the route is dangerous, not to mention unpleasant. Therefore, I think we should focus on accessibility, directness, and continuity of bike routes while analyzing and implementing land use policies that support paths, lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, etc, ” Diana said.

Road diet = war on cars

It sounds nice enough, but the part she leaves out is that part of the plan is to reduce auto lanes to make way for bikes and pedestrians. It’s not truly about offering more choices. Rather, it is about government deciding for you and me that cars are bad and cycling and walking are better alternatives to driving in your car. So under the guise of so-called “sustainable transportation,” the real motive is to force people out of their cars and onto their feet or bikes to get around, thereby crowding out automobile transportation.

The San Antonio MPO plans “to identify and analyze roadways that would benefit from a ‘road diet’.” It explains “a ‘road diet’ as a technique…to narrow the width of a road or lane or completely eliminate the through lane(s) to achieve…a more efficient, multi-modal street or roadway,” under subtask 2.3 of the MPO’s Unified Planning Work Program. An MPO resolution supports achieving bike facilities through “restriping or through a road diet.” Only a government bureaucrat would call shrinking the number of auto lanes and replacing them with bike lanes an “efficient” roadway.

Here are some examples of how these anti-automobile policies have played out in San Antonio and around the state. First, since the “Complete Streets” policy was adopted by the San Antonio MPO, the city came in and re-striped a major thoroughfare, N. New Braunfels Ave., so that what used to function as two lanes in each direction is now one lane each way for autos with a dedicated bike lane in the space once used by autos. There has been no marked increase in cyclists, but the auto congestion has doubled.

Also, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA), another duplicative government agency, is currently conducting the required environmental study for two San Antonio toll road projects, and both will be including bike and pedestrian facilities. There’s already discussion of completing a bike path that traverses under one road as part of the project. Yet all of these government agencies repeatedly tell us there’s no money to fix and/or expand our roads without costly tolls, but we apparently have plenty of money for extensive frontage roads, sidewalks, bike trails, and lighting for those sidewalks and trails.

Finally, San Angelo just announced its award of $3.2 million in highway funds to build a bike trail. It turns out the cost works out to be over a million dollars PER MILE!

Finally, San Angelo just announced its award of $3.2 million in highway funds to build a bike trail. It turns out the cost works out to be over a million dollars PER MILE!

‘Way to coerce people out of their cars’

Getting the picture yet? There’s a war on cars and politicians and bureaucrats are putting us on a “road diet” to force you out of your car and onto a hike & bike trail to help “solve” congestion. Naturally this also plays into the agenda of toll road advocates and bureaucrats that want free routes to remain congested to force you into paying tolls to get mobility. But is biking and walking really a practical solution for your daily commute and do you want your road taxes being used to expand roads for bikes only with no similar expansion for auto lanes? A larger agenda is at play and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wants gas taxes to fund non-motorized transportation: “It is a way to coerce people out of their cars. About everything we do around here is government intrusion in people’s lives…So have at it.”

Learn to identify the signs of Agenda 21 in your community. Looks for the buzz words and phrases such as: ‘Sustainable Development,’ ‘Walkable Communities,’ and ‘Complete Streets’ policies. Learn and then PURGE!



Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of eight turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to

SFPPR News & Analysis.

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