'Social Engineer' Your Kids (with Chariot Child Carriers)

This is supposed to be about bike trailers of a particular brand, that carry children, and happen to be on sale right now from my employer.

I wasn’t sure how to approach this article until a few minutes ago when I saw a friend of mine post this on Facebook:

The concept is so simple I don't know why I didn't think of it before. No more hunting around for a parking space. Find the farthest corner, park, and stroll to my destination. I'm happy, my dr's happy. Less stress, more activity?This is an actual friend of mine. We were neighbors when we were kids. This friend of mine is trying to lose weight. A lot of weight. And he’s starting to get creative with his approach. He’s succeeding.

This is the comment that I typed in response, but did not send:

You didn't think of it because you were raised in a society that discourages utilitarian effort.I didn’t send it because it felt like one of those hit-and-run quips made by arrogant pricks. I didn’t send it because it would be read by people other than my friend — people who wouldn’t understand the context of my comment; who might not know the meanings of big words such as utilitarian, effort, or because. (No arrogance here.)

I didn’t send it because the right thing to do is to “like” the comment and say, at most, “Way to go, Jake.” (Settle down. My friend is not really Jake Gyllenhaal). The right thing to do is to resist the urge to scorn while standing on my little social-critic soapbox.

Yet I believe it. I believe we live in a society that discourages utilitarian effort.

Some opponents of bike infrastructure like to call it “social engineering,” which is ironic, because our cities and towns have been engineered around the needs of automobiles, making us dependent on cars, not allowing us the choice. The people who can’t get their heads around cycling and walking — they are the results of decades of social engineering.

If I’m wrong, why does it seem so natural to certain members of Congress that transportation infrastructure shouldn’t require sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways as well as roads for people sitting effortlessly in motor vehicles?

Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2012 Benchmarking Report, Alliance for Biking & Walking
Graph: Alliance for Biking & Walking

If I’m wrong, then why has a program that helps kids get to school safely, under their own effort, been eliminated completely from the proposed transportation budget?

(You might have sensed that the part about bike child trailers being on sale is coming up. If you don’t make it to that part because you were motivated to click this link right now and tell your Congressman to vote NO on H.R. 7 (the Transportation bill), and tell your Senators to Support the Cardin-Cochran amendment, I won’t hold it against you. You can always come back here later and finish.)

Now imagine how different society would be if we’d always seen adults — our parents in particular — getting around on human power. Imagine if we could raise kids who didn’t ask, “Couldn’t we park any closer to the door?,” and asked instead, “Why did we drive to the store?”

These kids would become the adults who find it ridiculous to privilege motorized driving over walking or cycling the short distances that make up 90 percent of our trips.

So let me tell you about Chariot Child Carriers.

Chariot Cougar2 Bike Child Trailer

One day at work, a customer called and was having a hard time deciding between a Croozer brand bike child trailer, and a Chariot. She had a fixed budget, and wanted some advice.

I suddenly heard myself saying, “It’s like this: Would you rather have a fully-loaded Honda, or a stripped-down Lexus?”

I was both impressed with myself for totally nailing the analogy, and embarrassed that it was a car analogy. I too am a product of my environment.

If non-motorized transportation were as thoroughly infused into our lives as is motorized transportation, then the Chariot brand would be as well known as Lexus. Chariot is entirely dedicated to the outdoor transportation of children. Their products scream quality louder than a toddler in a cheap Wal-Mart bike trailer. And when you buy one of their carriers, its up to you to decide whether it will be a stroller, a jogger, a rickshaw, a sled, a bike trailer, or some multi-use combination.

And Chariot, somewhat like a car company, likes to come out every year with some exciting new colors and features because new means better in the minds of many consumers. Rather: New model means buy in the minds of many consumers.

So we, at Bike Shop Hub, decided to grab up as many of the 2011 models as we could and offer Lexi at Honda prices.

2011 Chariot Sale 20% Off while Supplies Last
And we made a bunch of banners about it too. Coming soon to a bike blog near you.

Parents who make cycling a normal part of daily life will raise the kind of kids who see cars as just another of their mobility choices. These kids will become the adults who see it as self-evident that biking and walking should be accommodated in transportation infrastructure projects.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is this: If you have young kids, do your own social engineering, beginning with bike trailers. If you want a bargain on a really high-quality bike trailer for your kids, now you know where to get one.

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46 thoughts on “'Social Engineer' Your Kids (with Chariot Child Carriers)”

  1. roc_phd says:

    I own a trek trailer that is several years old and the hitch on it was terrible. I’d heard that they were made by Chariot, so I bought the lollipop hitch kit (from your shop) and it fit like a glove and is much safer and easier to use. It’s not a fancy trailer but it worked for my daughter till she was old enough to trail-a-bike. Today she and her papa rode off for their 4-mile commute in 30 degree weather, she dressed like a “ninja!!!” in her black balaclava. She is a trooper – she completely understands that even the most mundane or difficult morning can be overcome by a bike ride, no matter what the weather. It’s just better! I’m expecting #2 in May and my goal is to figure out how he and I will get biking before the long year that all the trailer companies say is required for safety. There must be something I can safely strap an infant car seat into!!!

  2. Pete says:

    Great post.
    We’re expecting kid 1.0 in July and it’s killing me that I’ll have to wait a year to take him biking!

  3. Charlie says:

    check out the blog girlsandbicycles.ca. Miss Sarah is a cycling advocate living in Edmonton. She recently posted an article on this exact subject (http://www.girlsandbicycles.ca/2012/02/biking-with-baby.html). She is currently pregnant with her second child and discusses issues around bicycle commuting, including with a child and being pregnant. Great inspiration and an entertaining blog to follow.

  4. Ray Lovinggood says:

    I’ll take “this” Honda. Fully loaded would be great!


  5. bergerandfries says:

    “Yet I believe it. I believe we live in a society that discourages utilitarian effort.”

    Why is it that we have to have an “app for that” for everything? It’s the faith in the good old free market economy. The concept is that there is a need (transportation), and it is filled by the free market (a car). Everyone wins, right? I get a car and the folks who make it get paid. Side markets (gasoline, auto repair) spring up around the primary free market. Glorious!

    Except it isn’t 100% that way, is it? I need to remove a tree stump from my yard. I can try to stroll down to Oak Ridge National Labs for just “smidge of enriched Uranium” to blast the stump out of the ground, right? Uh, no. There are limits to the free market and government’s primary role is to keep things free that should be free and lock up or restrain things that should be restrained.

    The REAL question in my mind is this: Has the use of automobiles and our dwindling oil reserves now hit a point where the free market must be restrained? I think yes, but until a lot more of us decide it is so, I don’t see the political will to do a damn thing about it. It scares me for my retirement; for my kid’s future. And before anyone asks, yes, I PELT my representatives with demands for more cycling infrastructure and laws. I advocate at my local, state, and national levels. I vote.

  6. BluesCat says:

    bergerandfries – See, the problem is this fiction about the so-called “free market” when it comes to transportation in America. Big Oil and Big Auto have enormous resources, so it is almost like a West Virginia coal mine of the latter part of the 19th century; where the inflated cost of food and rent — and the cost of leasing the tools from the mining company — were automatically deducted from the miner’s pay and the “script” that they received for the balance was ONLY good in the “company store” (at ENORMOUSLY inflated prices). With their money and political influence, Big Oil/Auto dictate what you will pay for transportation and what form it will take.

    It’s not like you can say “Hey! Four bucks for a gallon of gas? When the NUMBER ONE EXPORT OF THE UNITED STATES IN 2011 WAS FUEL?!? No way, I’m gonna go over here and pay TWO bucks a gallon for this alternative fuel.” THAT would be a FREE MARKET!

    In the late 1940’s, GM bought up the street car systems which ran through central Phoenix ,and 44 other American cities, and replaced them with GM buses. Why? In the words of Alfred P. Sloan, GM CEO 1937-1946: “We’ve got 90 percent of the market out there that we can … turn into automobile users. If we can eliminate the rail alternatives, we will create a new market for our cars.” That’s exactly what they did, and this iron-fisted monopoly on how Americans get around continues to this day.

    Want an entertaining read? Download a copy of Out of Gas by Senators McCain and Coburn. It doesn’t take ANY “reading between the lines” at all to see what are the REAL reasons are for this manifesto.

  7. JaimeRoberto says:

    bergerandfries, the government should NOT step in to restrain the use of our cars. If our oil resources are truly dwindling, or if demand goes up, the price of oil and gas will go up. This will prod people to drive less or buy more fuel efficient cars. It won’t happen overnight, because people don’t buy a car every year, but it will happen over time.

    Now don’t take this to mean that I think government should subsidize my car use. Gas taxes should be set at a level that covers road construction and maintenance, and if gas taxes need to be raised from current levels to do that, then so be it.

  8. Tom Bowden says:

    jaimeroberto – well said. Often, the cries for government interaction just prevent the market from doing its job, which is to allocate resources. When government steps in and does that, it substitutes the judgment of a few individuals for the billions of decisions made every day by participants in the marketplace. Information, in the theoretical sense, is lost, and allocations then diverge from the ideal solution. As soon as I post this, others will no doubt decry my naivete and point to the example cited by bluescat, and probably others, but situations like the GM story would probably not have been possible without government assistance or collaboration. Placing decisions of resource allocation in the hands of a few government officials is just an invitation to special interests to get the government to do for them what they could not do in the marketplace. SO -does this mean I am pro-GM and anti bike? Of course not. I am just saying that government is often as much a part of the problem as it is part of the solution. Take for example the corn ethanol subsidy fiasco.

  9. BluesCat says:

    Tom – Naw, you are exactly right. And what is important to remember is that a few Big Tycoons sitting around a few Big Boardrooms in America have exactly the same type of power diverting resources in the market as those “few individuals” in the government you mentioned. And when both those groups get together in the collusion called “lobbying” the results are even WORSE.

    The government wasn’t complicit in what has been called either the National City Lines Conspiracy or the GM Streetcar Conspiracy, it was simply lackadaisical about it. Remember that this was right after WWII, wartime infrastructure was still producing an enormous amount of gasoline, motor vehicles and accessories. (My 1950 Studebaker — and even my 1955 Chevy — was that awful, dark, military-diarrhea green you could still find in 5-gallon cans at any Army Surplus store.) So you combine the cheap gas, cheap vehicle and cheap accessory components with urban sprawl and rock-n-roll on AM radio … and you have EXACTLY the sort of ideal environment for the Fat Cats that I talked about in the first paragraph!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Very good point. I wrote a post today on a very similar subject, but I think you out-posted me by explaining it as social engineering. Kids who see adults ride bikes, will ride more themselves.

    For example, I work at an elementary school and one particular family bikes to school. (I bike to school too, so I often see their bikes). Their grandfather really sets the tone -he’s been biking for decades (he’s a retired PE teacher). He picks the girls up from school with his wife on their own bike, and on windy days, he has this really cool multiple seater bike he hauls the girls on. It’s inspired a couple of other kids to ride too. 🙂

  11. Jeff Gardner says:

    Tom, well said. The marketplace, an efficient and seemingly cruel taskmaster, survives to live another day where unrealistic wish lists do not.

    Not to be a blind advocate of the marketplace. The parsing of its legitimate marketplace functions do just as much damage as do the attempts to parse legitimate govt functions to our liking as I too often see voiced on this forum. The greatest part of biking, and commuter biking, is that people left to rational decisionmaking — without artificial interference would vault this fundamental form of travel (NOT transport!!!!!!) into being a force to content with, overnight.

  12. trailz says:

    Fed seems to bend to commercial will. No change in sight. Still, keep the pressure on.

    Local is more responsive. Personalized relationships can be built, citizens empowered to put action behind comment. More powerful. I also think as local municipalities build the infrastructure, it might occur to our national politicians that it might just be the will of the people.

    So, while I do email and call my reps, I take every ACTION I can locally to make change — not just where I live, but to hopefully build an example for other communities – both large and small.

  13. Tom Bowden says:

    Jeff and Bluescat – I think we are essentially in agreement. Bluescat – as to the national lines conspiracy – who was it said that all that was necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing? Perhaps a healthy application of TR’s antitrust philosophy would have stopped that one. And yes, it is is the concentration of power, by government or business, but worst of all both acting in concert, that undermines the benefits of the market. That is the definition of crony capitalism, which is not capitalism at all, but a form of fascism. My issue is that when the government appropriates power or reduces freedom, through regulation or legislation, it creates an attractive nuisance to those who would co-opt that power to their advantage – what happens next is not hard to predict. Lobbying, special interest legislation (always in the name of the public good of course, regardless of the actual effect) and ultimately outright graft are the inevitable by-products of too much concentration of power in elected officials and regulators. So when did you start agreeing with Ron Paul?

  14. bergerandfries says:

    Ok, by the same posit, if the citizens of the USA are too flabby to compete in a world economy, and we are selected by the world economy for deletion, that’s ok? I’m just saying that COMPLETELY free market representative democratic governments are NOT known for their ability to react to a situation until it’s a crisis. It’s unfortunate, but I fear it could come to bad things here if we don’t soon engage in somethings to toughen us up and make our cost/unit of work come down.

  15. Jeff Gardner says:

    Yes Tom, we are in alignment. LOL at Ron Paul and BluesCat sharing the same universe.

    Whilst my focus is always of proper foundations, you add a GREAT under-attended building block — attractive nuisance. For whatever reason, Americans are far too tolerant of its widespread bloating of budgets and purposes.

    Of course, considering the AN phenomena from more fundamental foundations, bike path funding can be justly seen as AN, too. I suppose it all comes down to whose ox is being gored.

    Good post Tom; thanks.

  16. BluesCat says:

    Tom – Y’know, I agree with Ron Paul almost 100% about foreign policy, I DISAGREE with him almost 100% when it comes to government involvement in social issues, and as far as other domestic policy issues — and economic issues — it’s a mixed bag.

    While I agree with Thoreau (“That government is best which governs least”), there are issues where a responsible American federal government simply MUST get involved. And one of those issues is how we get people and products around in this country (whether you call it “transportation” or “travel,” and mean either “goods” or “passengers,” the key thing to remember is that it ALL uses the same methods). If the federal government doesn’t dictate how things are carried interstate, intrastate, and even — to some extent — locally, transportation/travel in the United States will be a disaster.

    We will see MORE instances like the National City Lines Conspiracy, where a group of rich companies will put transportation methods in place which don’t serve the people at all, but simply make some rich people richer. Our freeway system will begin to look like the highway system in Saudi Arabia, where you have empty 6-lane super highways going from royal palace to royal palace (substitute “One Percenter Mansion” for “royal palace”).

    You simply CANNOT shuffle the responsibility down to the fiefdoms known as the “States” here in the U.S. Most States do not have a transportation related resource, such as gasoline or natural gas, which can be taxed in order to fund those improvements, and many have other issues which would preempt spending money on roads which would simply allow the products to pass THROUGH the state, but NOT STOP IN IT.

    Texas and Oklahoma, gas producing states, might fare okay … which is probably why Ron Paul’s ideas make sense to some short-sighted people.

  17. Jeff Gardner says:

    BluesCat. How can you casually lump ‘transportation’ and ‘travel’ together? Because the outcome is what you WANT to see and a cause that you believe in. You’ve spoken of educating us “short-sighted people”. Best I can see, that means re-writing law until it fits what you want to see. There is no attorney in the country who would not tell you that ‘transport’ and ‘travel’ are two different universes. The federal govt has authority (for purposes of this discussion) over transportation. It simply does not over travel. Its a pesky Constitution thing, irritatingly backed up by SCOTUS.

    I am willing to be educated. Are you? Show me where I am incorrect and I’ll change my stripes. Can you say the same thing?

  18. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – Whoa! Chillax, my friend, and think about a few things.

    What passenger train have you ever seen which is not also carrying some cargo? What airliner have you ever flown on which is not also carrying some cargo?

    And do they have SEPARATE airports, or even separate runways and taxiways, for FedEX and UPS cargo planes and regular Southwest Airlines passenger aircraft? No.

    Do they have separate railroad tracks for Amtrak and CSX? No.

    Are there separate Interstate roadways, or lanes, for Swift 18-wheelers and Grandma Cat’s Honda? With VERY few exceptions, no.

    What we’re talking about with this transportation bill is the money for the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure which moves BOTH cargo (transportation) AND people (travel). We’re NOT talking about rules which govern whether Grandma Cat can carry hazardous material in her Honda (although, if you’ve ever caught a whiff of the contents of my 1-year-old granddaughter’s diaper … maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea). And we’re NOT talking about a federal requirement for child resistant door locks on a Peterbilt. (Do they even require that? I dunno, but it AIN’T what we’re talking about!)

    As a matter of fact, if the Feds were to put MORE money into bike TRANSPORTATION infrastructure, and so we could get MORE people riding to work, and then get FEWER private cars on road … we’d have LESS damage to the roadways (requiring fewer bucks for repair and maintenance), and truckers would have LESS damage to their rigs (resulting in less cost to get products to market and cheaper prices), and we’d, therefore, get MORE BANG FOR EVERY SINGLE TRANSPORTATION BUCK.

    If you’re going to play this “transportation” versus “travel” semantic card … well, yeah, I guess I’m calling that “short-sighted.”

  19. Jeff Gardner says:

    It’s not semantics, Blues. To make it so permits your consistent arguments that mix apples and oranges. Or, vastly more importantly, rights (travel) vs privileges (transportation). If people were arguing their rights, it wouldn’t include petitioning govt for funding. That is for privileged transport. Govt has no power to fund anything else.

    There are two things I completely empathize with in your thinking. First, that intelligent bike and bike commuting options have tremendous advantages. But that isn’t the point. It is what govt can justly do. For instance, govt has a duty to protect free speech. But that doesn’t mean they are obliged to build a stadium and fill it with people to hear what someone has to say.

    Second, I completely, completely understand why the concept of ‘transport’ is difficult to understand. But this latest manifestation doesn’t work, either. You’re half right without knowing why: yes, ‘people’ ‘travel’. But ‘cargo’ isn’t all that is ‘commercial’. A ‘people’ who becomes a ‘driver’, ‘operator’, is an artificial ‘person’ subject to govt’s well-established transport authority. Go back to the Trans Code and see for yourself.

    It isn’t always easy. Education never is. Thusfar, you’ve made several well-meaning points of the Trans Code and policy declarations — all shown to be incorrect or impertinent. The discourse is valuable and I hope to learn something, but it is bothersome to see that knowledge (or at least, supported claims) inconvenient to the cause simply doesn’t count, and people acting on that better knowledge (I’m giving Republicans alot of undeserved credit here!) are routinely chastised as fools and miscreants.

    You do have a very good grasp on many important parts of US transport history. Like any other part of learning Blues, fill that history in a bit and you may find yourself with a different perspective. None of which undermines the goodness of the bicycle, or what you do to promote it in Arizona.

    R/ Jeff

  20. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – The biggest problem I have is with your statement “That is for privileged transport. Govt has no power to fund anything else.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds like you’re saying the definitions of “transportation” in the UTC override the implicit spending powers of the U.S. Congress as defined in the Taxing and Spending clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    If it “provides for the … general Welfare of the United States,” Congress can spend money on it, because Congress isn’t limited to the reduced powers or narrow definitions of some federal department. Under either Madison’s narrow definition, or Jefferson’s broad definition, of the General Welfare clause, spending transportation system money on bike paths would be WELL within the powers of the federal government.

    Heck, the Supreme Court actually verified that Congressional power over transportation money, in a “bass ackwards” manner, in the 1987 South Dakota vs. Dole decision. In that decision SCOTUS upheld withholding highway funds to states which didn’t raise their drinking age to 21!

    Now YOU tell ME: what does an 18-year-old drinking beer have to do with “commercial” or “transportation” funding in America?

  21. Jeff Gardner says:

    Blues. You’re making me blue with sadness.

    The T & S Clause is limited authority to tax and spend for enumerated powers of Art I, Sec. 8. It is not a general grant of power to govt.

    Neither is the General Welfare Clause a general grant of authority nor a new tax & spend power. Madison and, later, the budget debates for 1806, then Marshall in Gibbons v Ogden (1823, I believe), then Story’s Commentaries (1826?), then a long line of cases dealing with lighthouses in coastal ports. &c &c.

    Don’t know what to tell you, Blues. Granted, your positions were a large controversy in the 19c, but that’s been a while.

    Your alcohol arguments open up other, unique cans of worms. Firstly, govt has special, legitimate power to control alcohol. Goes back to Magna Carta. Secondly, the Dole controversy ran afoul of another Constitutional mandate, 21A. But in the end, the Dole decision that addressed more modern questions still references frequently and never questioned the legitimate limitations and jurisdiction of federal highways.

  22. I live in London and have been using a Chariot CX trailer for my son, now four, since he a little before he turned one. It is, as you say, the most marvellous piece of equipment. I haul him a mile and three-quarters every morning to nursery and leave the trailer there for the nanny to take him home in. It’s stood up to an awful lot of battering. The only drawback is that, as the boy’s getting bigger, it’s getting harder and harder to haul him.

    Your views about parents, meanwhile, chime neatly with my feelings about the importance of family example for encouraging cycling. I recently covered the subject, in fact, in a blogpost at http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-family-for-me-is-bit-about-bike.html

  23. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – Setting aside the whole alcohol question (if you don’t like that example), the 1937 Helvering v. Davis decision established the right of Congress to interpret the “general welfare” clause in the U.S. Constitution. In effect, giving Congress the plenary, or absolute, or unqualified power to tax and spend on something it identifies as promoting the general welfare. There’s NO getting around that.

    If Congress decided, today, that the dispersal of highway funds to the states would be contingent on the inclusion of a Complete Streets-type of component in the design of a project — which REQUIRED bike lanes sufficient to carry an equal number of automobiles AND bicycles the length of the project — there is NOTHING in the law which would prevent that.

    THAT’S what Congress should do, and by YOUR “intelligent bike and bike commuting options have tremendous advantages” statement it is obvious that you agree.

    Oh, and on topic, the Schwinn Scout bike trailer that I bought a while ago cost me about a third of what a similar Chariot trailer costs. And it SHOWS. I am comfortable riding my two little granddaughters around the neighborhood in it, at a sedate 7 to 8 mph, but the only time I will take it out of the neighborhood is if the ONLY cargo in it will be cat food!

  24. Jeff Gardner says:

    Blues, I’m used to Helvering cases being tax law. I’ll have to go look H v D up. I cringe already because very little sanity came out of the 1937 Court.

    But. It is taken as the Law of the Land nonetheless. So if your offering is right then….it is right. I am not inclined to go find some snippet of something somewhere simply to be right. What is right is right. Of course, conversely, if it is something not quite as advertised then I’ll go with that right answer — the ‘right answer’, for me, has nothing to do with what what is best for bike lanes.

  25. Jeff Gardner says:

    OK Blues, Helvering v. Davis. The “court-packing case”. Some background…every J had either a long or short record of ruling opposite its decision here — and in cases as recently as a year or two before. Although every J denied it, the career of each was dogged by charges by nearly everyone that they had caved to then-existing FDR court-packing threats. Looking at their records, its hard to argue otherwise.

    Whatever. It is an existing, unoverturned decision. And, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t say what you badly want it to say. You are right about the vastly expanded plenary spending interpretation for ‘general welfare’. But the court was clear that this was still an interpretation within the long-existing Constitutional guidelines before mentioned: ‘general welfare’ spending MUST be national in nature, not local. It will require quite the pretzel logic to reasonably say that a bike path has a direct nexus to improved commerce nationwide.

  26. Carol says:

    As a teacher and a mom, I’ve always felt that education begins at home. The same is true for utilitarian use of bicycles.

    My kids have driver’s licenses, but they consider bicycling a first choice for getting where they need to go. We didn’t have to “discuss” at family meetings or offer bribes to get them to think this way. I like to think it just came naturally after they saw their parents doing so.

    Go “Jake”!

  27. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – No, NOT “improved commerce” only, but the “improved general welfare” of the United States. And anyone who tries to dispute that a national network of federally funded bike paths wouldn’t go a long way towards improving the physical and financial well-being of ALL Americans and ALL of America simply hasn’t really looked at the evidence.

  28. Jeff Gardner says:

    Blues, you’d have been a terrific lawyer. In the 1820s. Yours is exactly, exactly, the argument that was made in the first half of the 19c. People argued amongst other things, that Congress could pay for localized roads and harbor lighthouses, Just Because they were Congress. Marshall answered “the sovereignty of Congress, though limited to specific objects, is plenary as to those objects ***”.

    H v. D., nor any other of a dozen important cases on the question, challenged or disturbed the long-standing decision. No briefs anywhere anytime have ever argued that bike paths are Art I, Sec. 8 “specific objects” to which Congress’ widened plenary powers (HvD) applies. No one has ever filed a brief arguing that bike projects should be the exception the legal precedent because BluesCat in Arizona really really really really wants them.

    Once again – yes, abundant evidence shows that bike projects would benefit Americans. Abundant evidence also shows that widely available contraception would benefit the nation, that communities across the land would be better off with more public spaces, better schools, more baseball fields, whatever. But that doesn’t empower Congress to provide them. Or, stop alot of uneducated people who really really really really believe in those things from calling people who won’t (can’t) give it to them nasty names.

  29. It sounds like some US politicians have similar blindspots to those of the charming individual I describe in this blogpost: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/01/minister-who-made-invisible-visible-man.html

  30. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – YOU keep talking about only LOCAL things like local roads and lighthouses, while I’M talking about a provision in FEDERAL law which would require a NATIONAL recognition of the importance of bicycles to our NATIONAL system of movement by insisting on bike infrastructure on projects with FEDERAL funds. YOU’RE trying to shoehorn MY argument into YOUR antiquated view of constitutional law, MY argument represents the modern, Hamiltonian view of the tax and spend powers of Congress.

    For example, The Stack Interchange, a four-level traffic interchange which connects Interstate 10 and Interstate 17, was a LOCAL project — in the center of Phoenix — which joined key components of our NATIONAL Interstate system. It would NOT have been possible without FEDERAL funds, and is the way MOST federal highway projects work.

    We’re facing a serious NATIONAL problem of obesity, which is threatening the welfare of the ENTIRE United States in areas from health care services to our ability to compete in world markets as a result of lost productivity.

    We’re also facing a SERIOUS crisis in our own, NATIONAL commercial markets as a result of our NATIONAL vulnerability to the vagaries of world oil prices.

    A NATIONAL system of bike infrastructure would work to combat both those NATIONAL problems, and Congress is WELL within its rights and responsibilities to tax and spend on infrastructure with NATIONAL implications.

    Gosh, to listen you’d think the poor Ol’ Cat was the ONLY one promoting a NATIONAL system of bike lanes. I quote The Invisible Visible Man, who adds yet MORE support for a NATIONAL bike system:
    “Politicians who want to make life safer for pedestrians and other road users should consequently be encouraging cycling, even if cyclists continue to run red lights (which I think they shouldn’t) or mount the occasional pavement. We cyclists represent far less of a danger to other road users than any other form of wheeled transport.”

  31. Joel says:


    I am with you and agree with the main premise of this article: the example parents set at home is very powerful and influential.

    Another article which is related to the politics of oil and automobiles on this site focused on “show me the money.” When employers realize that encouraging their employees to cycle to work will reduce absenteeism, health care cost, and improve productivity, then it will be greedy capitalism which ultimately supports our desire for bicycle infrastructure.

    Students who have safe passage to schools while walking or biking can significantly reduce the costs of school busing as well as leading to lower health costs and good physical fitness habits in the future.

    Health costs associated with Medicare and Medicaid have been identified as unsustainable and a significant contributing factor to our trillion dollars of national debt. Cycling can easily be a year round exercise opportunity helping to lower the costs of our government.

    My forty pound bike, twenty-five pound backpack, and 215 pound frame are causing a fraction of wear on the transportation infrastructure as compared to a 3,000 pound car. I am saving the taxpayers many dollars in road maintenance and improvement.

    “Brother, can you spare a dime so I can save you two dollars?”

  32. Jeff Gardner says:

    Blues. You frequently invoke Hamilton, but reject the completely decisions of “antiquated” law thereafter that thoroughly reject his taxing and spending position. Meanwhile, you invoke “old” law when you believe it can be parsed in a way to achieve what you want.

    Thusfar, you’ve made about a dozen points of case law, statutes, regulations and policy. Each (except your cites of Hamilton) are labored twisting of snippets, out of the context of a larger argument, which ignore rules of construction and legal maxims. 100% of them! I did not make up maxims, construction, context, case law, precedent, ConLaw and Constitutional history, Blues. There is no one — no one — who survived even one year of law school or HIST grad school making the kinds of errors upon which your premise depends. Interestingly, you readily dismiss 230 years’ worth of jurists, attorneys, the legal industry and historians, supremely confident that they-all are wrong and you are right.

    Promote the cause. But please consider being less dismissive of people who CAN back up their arguments with precedent so well established that they are beyond controversy. There are indeed cogent arguments that can support your beliefs, but you depend on a position that isn’t very hard to set aside. There is a reason why people whose professional life is to study these things think differently than do you. It is not they who need to be educated, Blues.

    Per your M.O., you turn from a lost technical argument to a very, very good and pretty sound belief argument. Wait until you see how many people who aren’t listening come around to understanding your purpose when the Straits of Hormuz close! Then, the discussions on this forum will be about how to manage traffic jams in bile lanes. 🙂

  33. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – Am I hearing you correctly? That SCOTUS decisions of LAW have REJECTED the Hamiltonian view?

    I think you should look at an article in FindLaw regarding the Congressional Power to Tax and Spend; specifically the paragraph under the heading SPENDING FOR THE GENERAL WELFARE where the first sentence is:
    “Finally, in United States v. Butler, the Court gave its unqualified endorsement to Hamilton’s views on the taxing power.”

    That whole paragraph is a VERY entertaining refutation of you position.

  34. Jeff Gardner says:

    Read the case. Butler did not change the legal meaning of ‘general welfare’ that stood since 1823. In fact, it protected it.

    Butler did startlingly expand power within ‘general welfare’. Those powers do not invoke until ‘general welfare’ criteria are met.

    You have staked a claim on a long-since rejected interpretation of ‘general welfare’. I don’t expect you’ll join the 21st century on this. Too bad. If you did, you’d move ahead to understand where this line of cases ends up in the 1980s that would give the argument you want to craft some legitimate standing today.

  35. Dr. M says:

    I agree! Children who were taken around by bicycle often grow up to be cyclists. I started out with a child seat then as the family grew, invested in a Blue Sky Cycle Cart which I used to haul all three of our children.
    They all ride bicycles now, especially for local errands and sometimes just taking the fitness trail.
    I may sound like a broken record but the school bus drivers unions have ruined the opportunity for our local children to bike to school. Our children were homeschooled so it didn’t effect them either way. However, the public schools do not want children independently going to school as it would mean less buses, and less union jobs for the drivers. The bike racks were removed so as to discourage the children from riding even though they had been in place by the front door for years.
    I agree with some of the points here but there is a LOT more insidious stuff going on in this country than big oil and automobile companies and it’s going on at the local level.

  36. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – No, you’re correct, “Butler did not change the legal meaning of ‘general welfare’,” it verified the authority of Congress to decide EXACTLY WHAT QUALIFIES AS “GENERAL WELFARE”.

    Here’s the definition of “general welfare” from the TheFreeDictionary: “The concern of the government for the health, peace, morality, and safety of its citizens.” I don’t think anyone who has been following our conversation here would dispute the fact that a national network of bike paths and lanes would fit in that definition, and Congress could finance it as promoting the general welfare.

    TheFreeDictionary, in that same entry I linked to, goes on to say that “Congress appropriates money for a seemingly endless number of national interests, ranging from federal courts, policing, imprisonment, and national security to social programs, environmental protection, and education. No federal court has struck down a spending program on the ground that it failed to promote the general welfare.” (Emphasis is mine.)

    I’M not joining the 21st Century? Ironically, it was Hamilton who argued that “the federal government needs a power of taxation equal to its necessities, both present and future.” He almost predicted the broad range of general welfare services we started requiring towards the middle of the 20th Century, with the advent of the Great Depression, and which we continue to need today, in the 21st Century, towards the end of the Great Recession.

    It was Madison, in The Federalist – No 41, who wanted to limit the government to eliminate the power of the government to maintain an army in peacetime. A shortsighted view which probably would have been disastrous with the advent of modern mechanized armies.

  37. Jeff Gardner says:

    Blues. The Free Dictionary does not matter. Web commentary is not a valid source. Policy statements mean nothing. Snippets of any body of work nearly guarantee distortion. Appeals to bifurcated beliefs are not a valid substitute.

    You are not grasping the General Welfare idea. Think of a smorgasbord. All you can eat! endless food. Wonderful! But it is only available after preconditions are met — paying for the meal. In this hypothetical, you are downright giddy at the mesmerizing, mouthwatering image of all that food whilst entirely dismissing the inconvenient fact that you haven’t a penny in your pocket. In fact, you owe about 15.3 trillion.

    If you read Butler to redefine General Welfare to its pre-1823 controversy then you are the only one who sees it.

    I don’t understand why you inject war and monetary policy into this conversation. But if you believe that Hamilton’s wise and courageous position on debt has a scintilla of anything to do with 20c finance, correcting such nonsense is a far more complex proposition than something as straightforward as ‘general welfare’.

    Your grasp at straws seems at this point to achieve little more than prove you are right. If you want to have a substantive examination based on sound foundations, I’m all ears. I can learn something! But as long as you are willing to parse out any sound byte that can be distorted to match what you want to believe, education is out of our grasp and this conversation is a waste of time. Winning an argument at any cost, no matter how poor the input, is useful for indoctrination but not for education. The only way anyone ever learns is by changing their mind.

    I once was exactly what you are today, Blue. That’s why I empathize with your sincere beliefs. I’ll say firsthand that an education turns everything on its head.

  38. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – Hmmm. “The Free Dictionary does not matter.” Okay, then I submit that since everything you have posted on why national bike lanes can’t be approved and funded by Congressional authority is because of limitations in the Commerce Clause, that YOUR position “does not matter.”

    As a for instance, in the 1823 Gibbons v Ogden case (the one you seem to be hanging your hat on), the ONLY argument before the Court was what power the Congress had, under the Commerce Clause, to regulate steamboats in a manner which usurped the rights of the states, specifically New York. The only reference to the General Welfare Clause was a dictum by Chief Justice John Marshall, an “example” he mentioned of the types of power the Congress has, but wasn’t a part of the decision and, therefore, wasn’t law then and isn’t law now.

    You said yourself, earlier, in another post here on CbB, that “Bike paths are, with some rare exception somewhere I’m sure, not commercial venues.” So, why do you keep insisting on tying bike infrastructure to the Commerce Clause? There are all kinds of things (such as handicap access) which are in transportation projects which have nothing whatever to do with commerce, and everything to do with the general welfare.

    And as far as the Ol’ Cat just being desperate to win the argument, and is trying to do it from a severely limited education …

    Thou “doth protest too much, methinks.”

  39. Jeff Gardner says:

    As before mentioned, Black’s Law Dictionary is for most purposes all that matters for legal definition. Take defs from BLD1 forward on the matters of import to this topic and you will see that my position is all that DOES matter. Not because I’m some sort of prescient, but rather, because its written there in black and white. Read, understand, and your world will be turned upside down.

    I limited reference to Gibbons v Ogden for sake of clarity and brevity at sourcework. I use quotes sparingly because they are too easily surgically parsed for parochial benefit. However, I did quote Marshall from GvO earlier; him saying exactly what you say he did not. (All Marshall opinions are long and reference both sides of an argument, so its easy to miss something or misconstrue it.) If you are serious about understanding this part of the Commerce Clause, read the CASELAW — not synopses or third-party commentaries — for: McCulloch v Maryland (1819); Cooley v Board of Port Wardens (1852); US v E.C. Knight (1895); Addyston Pipe and Steel v US (1899); Champion v Ames (1903); Swift & Co. v US (1905); Hipolite Egg Co. v. US (1911); Hoke v US (1913); Shreveport Rate Case (1914); Caminetti v US (1917); Hammer v Dagenhart (1918); Stafford v. Wallace (1922); Railroad Retirement Board v Alton (1935); Schecter Bros. Pountry (“sick chicken case)(1935); Carter v Carter Coal (1936); NLRB v Jones & McLaughlin Steel (1937); US v Darby (1941); Wickard v Filburn (1942); H.P. Hood & Sons v Dummond (1949); Dean Milk v Madison (1951); Heart of Atlanta Motel v US (1964); Katzenbach v McClung (1964); Pike v. Bruce (1970); Perez v US (1971).

    Read Lexis. Not Findlaw. If you become serious about learning it, I’ll point to you the dozen most important cases. Those are what my students read for minimally adequate CC understanding. I’m sure Counselor Bowden can do this for you, too.

    We all have education of one sort or another. And, we all have more to learn than we know. The day any of us thinks otherwise is the day we die.

  40. BluesCat says:

    Jeff – Evidently was having some technical problems answering you, and we have probably taken enough of Ted’s time monitoring this thread, so go to my blog to see my response: .

  41. Ted Johnson says:

    BluesCat and Jeff Gardner:

    For what it’s worth, I tweeted the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) asking them for their opinion on this issue. They an advocacy organization, in DC, and they have lawyers.

    Here’s the conversation on Twitter:

    Me: Would love @BikeLeague input on “Transport vs. Travel” + other constitutional points being discussed in the comments: http://ow.ly/965Uu

    LAB: Our transportation system should focus on moving people, not just cars. @BikeLeague

    Me: Agreed. But what does the case law have to say about it?

    LAB: Is there a constitutional bar against fed transpo spending on bike/ped? No.

    Forgive me if I asked the wrong question. My moderating of your comments has been cursory because you guys make my brain hurt.

  42. Jeff Gardner says:

    Ted, thanks so much for accommodating. Even if the subject bored most people to tears, it is the kind of discourse that is the strength of such a forum. Even if it isn’t always interesting. And that strength means nothing without your patience….so, thanks so much. Probably, someone learned something.

  43. BluesCat says:

    Yup, and I hope you did learn sumthin’, Jeff.

  44. Tom Bowden says:

    Jeff – I’m with BluesCat on this one. Like it or not, the fact that Congress can pass a law mandating that individual purchase health insurance from private companies, and that division of opinion in the circuit courts over the constitutionality of such a law will require the Supreme Court to determine its fate bears witness to the extremely broad and expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause that now prevails. Not saying I agree with it, not by a long shot, but if Congress has the power to spend money on low income housing, Medicare, Medicaid, Public Television, Public Radio, Space Travel, fundamental scientific research, performing arts, national parks and broadband telecommunications infrastructure, to name but a few, it appears to me that the legal arguments you have offered have not, in general, prevailed. I other words, the cases you cite seem to have been limited to their facts.

  45. Jeff Gardner says:

    Counselor, thanks for your input. Unsurprisingly, you get right to the broad spectrum and, there, we have little disagreement, if any. The focus of this topic began in a different area however; not Constitutional matters that are on the periphery of this website’s focus, but rather, on statute and regulatory authority. The black-and-white of the Code pretty clearly limits transport authority to the commercial sector,even in the citations given to try to show it does not. But all of that was set aside. Still, I would LOVE to find or be shown that ‘law in its entirety’ argument that shows otherwise.

    Thanks so much, Counselor. Let’s all get back on our bikes!

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