Oct 23

If You Build It, They Will Bike: The Mayor of Louisville’s Field of Dreams

small bike lane

If You Build It, They Will Bike:
The Mayor of Louisville’s
Field of Dreams

By Andrew Genesius

The Mayor of Louisville is haunted by a dream. He has a vision of a Louisville where the ringing of bells has replaced the honking of car horns as thousands upon thousands of bicycles roll through the streets. In order to achieve his desire, he has decided to convert car lanes to bike lanes; in essence, he has made the streets half the road they used to be.

What has driven the Mayor to turn away from cars and ride a bike to work? It is not the result of him listening to Queen’s “Bicycle Race” one too many times in his youth. Nor is this move part of the Mayor’s master plan to convert Louisville into an “Amish Paradise”. No, the Mayor is motivated by a yearning to increase the density of his city and decrease the waistlines of his citizens.

He only has one obstacle; the vast majority opposes the bike lanes.

Why then would a mayor go against the will of the people he allegedly represents? Why does he believe his scheme will work when there is overwhelming opposition? His misplaced confidence in his cycling scheme stems from a foolish belief in Keynesian Economics’ Stimulus Myth. According to the economist John Maynard Keynes, if the government wants to increase demand (i.e. desire to bike in the streets), they need to increase supply (i.e. build more bike lanes). The Mayor believes if he builds it, they will bike.

While some people believe Keynesian Economics is the bees’ knees, economic reality begs to differ. If creating something could automatically increase demand for that thing, we could bring back the horse and buggy industry by creating horse lanes. Just take a moment to imagine how great that would be. Lanes exclusively devoted to horses would be able to do away with many of the evils of cars: such as, a decrease in car pollution, DUI arrests, and car accidents. Horse breeders in Kentucky would experience a boom in business, and Louisville would become very unique and fun for the Equestrian community. The new horse lanes would also create many jobs: including, stable boys, horse whip makers, and pooper scoopers.

Despite all the advantages of horse lanes, such lanes will never bring back the horse and buggy industry because they are an inefficient use of the supply of a limited commodity (i.e. roads). The end result of the inefficient bike lanes, and future possible horse lanes, will be an increase in traffic congestion, which will result in less people traveling downtown.

Politicians in general need to learn that government cannot create demand for a product when no one wants the product. Horses and bicycles went out of fashion, because cars are more efficient. It does not matter how much the Mayor might lust for an increase in bicycle use; if people do not want to engage in an activity, they will not do it. The mayor can lead a Louisvillian to a bike lane, but he cannot make them pedal.


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