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The 2022 Climate Bill subsidizes cars at the expense of biking and walking

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, AKA the Climate Bill, is moving forward. However, its latest iteration has dropped a lot of the provisions for biking and walking and instead focuses on electric cars.

The Washington Post has the details: Bikes get slighted in compromise climate deal.

Dropped from the deal is a tax credit worth up to $900 to help cyclists purchase electric bikes. Also gone is a pretax benefit for commuters to help cover the cost of biking to work.


“It is difficult to understate the lobbying power that car companies have,” Zipper said. “We make jokes about Big Bike, but the reality is that it is a minuscule lobbying force supporting bicycles compared to what’s behind automobiles.”

There is scant little for walking either, although America Walks isn’t entirely pessimistic:

There is a bright spot in the transportation legislation: the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants. This program dedicates $3.4 billion to infrastructure projects that better connect communities.

Getting fewer people driving, and more people biking and walking, should be a top priority for anyone serious about climate. Even if we switched every single car in the US to electric, it would only be a band-aid solution. The damage that cars do goes beyond their emissions numbers.

So even with a silver lining, the bill is a disappointment for bicycle advocates. This should not be surprising, though. Federal bills are historically awful at advancing biking and walking in our communities. I’m reminded of this interview with Strong Towns’ Charles Marohn about why he doesn’t see climate discussions as productive:

Look, the most dedicated-to-[addressing]-climate-change president that has ever been has just done a gas tax holiday. We’re not at some tipping point where people are serious about it.

People ask me: What’s the number one strategy we can do at the local level to build a strong town? I’m like, one, go out and plant trees. Street trees are the lowest-cost, highest-returning investment that can be made.

Two, get people walking and biking. Build a culture of biking and a culture of walking. Three, fill your parking lots with stuff. Get rid of parking lots and fill them with things.

Now, you tell me, if your strategy is to get the right people elected, they need to have the guts to pass the right package, to do the right stuff, so that we get some action on climate change… Or, we can make a bottom-up choice to emphasize communities that plant trees, get people walking, and get rid of parking–which one is going to be further along the race a decade from now?

I don’t even think it’s close.

As time goes on, it’s harder for me to disagree with his conclusion. Federal bills are not working, and are clearly not going to work in our foreseeable future. For most of us, it’s a waste of energy to even worry about them. But building a culture of biking and walking in our own communities, the bottom-up approach, can always be effective. Better yet, it’s something we can each go out and work on right now.

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