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Friday, September 5, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters To The Editor

Bicycles -- Column Against Trail Misses The Point: If You Build It, They Will Ride

Editor, The Times:

James Vesely's contention that the City of Bellevue should have voted down funding for a section of bike trail ("Bellevue should say no to bicycle boondoggles," Aug. 11 column) is another example of the shortsightedness that alternative-transportation advocates are constantly battling.

At this point in time, bicyclists are way ahead of the planners and the infrastructure. We have the vehicles, we have the will - we don't have the highways. If 30 years ago we had stopped building roads, then, in the consequent absence of a safe complete system upon which to use them, we now would see less auto use. Conversely, if we continue to build bike trails, eventually we will have a complete and practically navigable system upon which to operate bicycles. Ridership and frequency of use will increase in direct proportion to the increase in the size of the trail network.

To nix a particular section of trail because current ridership is low would be akin to deciding in the '50s not to build the portion of the Interstate Highway System between, say, Spokane and Boise because not enough people were using the existing route. The point is not to define need by current use, but to imagine potential future use - to encourage potential future use for a desirable end: in this case the reduction of crowding and air pollution - in the case of the Interstates, the promotion of commerce (yes, and troop movement). The freeway system has certainly increased interstate highway travel; a complete system of bicycle routes would create a similar increase in bicycle use.

Mr. Vesely also asks where the bicyclists are in February. Well, many of us are on our bikes, but the fact that others may be in their cars or on a bus is no reason to eliminate a trail. Most trips on a bike eliminate a trip in a car - presumably a single-occupant trip. Using Mr. Vesely's logic, we would eliminate trains, buses and other transportation alternatives if the people who used them did not use them every day. I propose it would make more sense and immediately benefit society if we eliminated all cars that were not used every day. And while we're at it, let's start eliminating roads that are not being used to their full potential (if we can find any).

Rex McDowell Assistant manager, Aurora Cycle Seattle

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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