How to start an argument: Say, 'Roads Were Not Built For Cars'

How to win the argument: Read Roads Were Not Built For Cars

Here’s a risk free Kickstarter project: Carlton Reid has raised and exceeded his   £4,000 ($6073 US) goal for his forthcoming book.

So, if you pledge now, it’s too late to say “I pledged before it was cool to pledge,” but you will be betting on a winner, and you’ll be among the first to receive the book.


And if you have doubts about Reid’s follow through, consider this:

Not only is he the busybody writer & editor at,, and, but he co-wrote the Bike to Work Book with Tim Grahl, a former captain of this ship. (The book is now available for free as a PDF Download, and as a free podcast read by Reid and Grahl.)

Maybe I’ll send a copy of the book to this guy.

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8 thoughts on “How to start an argument: Say, 'Roads Were Not Built For Cars'”

  1. BluesCat says:

    The American System is a good study of the real basis for federally funded transportation.

    Basically, it was an economic plan of the first half of the 19th century which helped the United States become a world power by unifying the country.

    It had three key points:
    * It promoted tariffs on foreign goods to protect the U.S. economy and provide revenue for the federal government.
    * Supported a national bank to stabilize the currency and control risky state and local banks.
    * Provided federal money for roads, canals, and other “internal improvements” to speed up the transportation of goods throughout the country.

    A number of economic downturns had demonstrated to the politicians of the day the need for all three parts of The System.

    These politicians of today who are advocating smaller government and tax breaks for the rich should study this history.

  2. Kevin Love says:

    This sounds suspiciously like Sir John A. Macdonald’s “National Policy.” With the key exception that Sir John A. was actually able to do it.

    There still is a Bank of Canada, whose role is more important than ever in today’s world.

  3. BluesCat says:

    Yup, exactly right, Kevin. Canada’s “National Policy” came after — and some say it was inspired by — the American System.

    The problem with BOTH of these economic policies is NOT that they were bad ideas, but that the leaders of the time (1) attempted to implement them as originally envisioned, as some sort of Biblical Truth, rather than “tuning” them as they were implemented so that the non-workable aspects were removed, and (2) as a result, when they DID find some parts non-workable, they threw it out rather attempting “tuning.” (Tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bath water.)

    We, of course, still see this happening today in both the U.S. and Canada: the moment a really good idea hits a snag (i.e. bike lanes on busy streets) the governing powers toss the whole idea out as WRONG.

  4. Your Wrong says:

    Since ‘cyclists’ love to make this argument, I am certain I am familiar with every ‘point’ the author will make, even though I have not read the book (nor will I)…

    In short, yes cyclists were the earliest advocates for better roads (largely because they predate cars); however, it is incorrect to claim that ‘roads were not built for cars’.

    Virtually every road in the United States has been built post 1950. In all of those cases, the funding reason was to move people and goods via the dominate mode (>99%), which is motor vehicles. Those roads were and are designed for MOTOR VEHICLES.

    No sane, reasonable person can actually believe that we would have the more than 8,500,000 lane miles of pavement that we have in the US, without the economic and social force that is the automobile…

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I think you have your causality backwards.

      I would argue that we have the economic and social force that is the automobile because of the 8,500,000 lane miles of pavement that we have in the US.

      Our society built around cars is a result of public investment in infrastructure plus direct and indirect subsidies to the auto industry.

  5. BluesCat says:

    Your Wrong – So, lemme see if I have this straight: Roads were made for motor vehicles, NOT bicyclists or pedestrians; therefore, NO bicyclists or pedestrians should be allowed to use the “roads” and NO money should used to make improvements to the “roads” to accommodate pedestrians or bicyclists. Have I got that right? Okay.

    #1 – When you say “Virtually every road in the United States has been built post 1950” I bet you’re speaking strictly of Interstates, right? ‘Cause it shouldn’t be a news flash that “roads” have existed in North American since the pre-Columbian era.

    #2 – When you say that, those “roads” you’re speaking of (in #1) “were and are designed for MOTOR VEHICLES” you are 100%, absolutely … and TOTALLY … DUDE … WRONG. I direct you to the Federal Highway Administration Interstate FAQ page:
    “Each State establishes the operating rules that determine which vehicles are allowed on the Interstate highways under their jurisdiction. Most States do not allow bicyclists on the Interstate shoulders, but bicycle use is permitted in some States, particularly in the west where there is less traffic and where good alternative routes may not exist for bicycles. Determining if bicycle access should be permitted is done only after careful study and consideration of how bicyclists and motor vehicle traffic can safely negotiate on- and off-ramps. The safety of all roadway users must be considered. In addition, some Interstate highways, mainly in urban areas, have been built with bicycle paths.” (Emphasis is mine.)

    In the United States, bicycles have ALWAYS been considered proper roadway users, so much so that every state that I can think of has it written into the state statutes; in Arizona it is A.R.S § 28-812: “A person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”

    Saying that just because the vast majority of traffic on the roadways is motorized means that the roads are ONLY for motorized traffic is the same as saying that just because the vast majority of people at the city swimming pool are WHITE means that the pool is ONLY for WHITES.

    Do I haveta tell ya how THAT contention is gonna fly?

  6. Kevin Love says:


    I don’t think the National Policy was really “tossed out.” Modified yes, but elements remain in place to this very day, ranging from the Bank of Canada to the R&D tax credits program.

    The ultimate expression of the National Policy was the construction of the Trans-Continental Railway, The Canadian Pacific Railway. Canada would not exist without the railway; British Columbia only joined Confederation because of the promise of a railway to connect BC with the rest of the Dominion. The prairie provinces could never have been settled as they were without a railway to bring in the settlers and to transport their wheat to market.

    At its peak of construction, the Railway took one-third of all government spending to build. No other government endeavour was so costly or took such a high percentage of government spending until The Great War.

    The Railway also deeply imbedded itself into Canadian self-expression. To quote Sir Wilfrid Laurier, “Some countries are the product of war; Canada was built by a railway.”

    I rather agree with Gordon Lightfoot. See:

  7. BluesCat says:

    Kevin – Good point about “modified” rather than “tossed.” I stand corrected.

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