Sill looking for an explanation of how we destroyed our economy so badly? Come visit. On a five-minute drive I will illustrate it for you.
We'll be motoring along the busy two-lane state highway which has just been graced by a new bike trail.
First, however, kindly permit me a brief personal aside. I am a fan of the trail concept. People who walk and ride bicycles instead of driving cars and trucks become healthier and wealthier. When protein-based locomotion is substituted for fossil fuel, we reduce our overseas cash-exodus and debt problem. Our world becomes a little cleaner. It's all good, or would be if (a) trails were built with a degree of intelligence and (b) they actually went somewhere.
The one I refer to starts at the driveway of a big church well outside of town and ends a couple of miles away near the entrance to a lakeside park. Aside from a country convenience store mid-way, there is no reason travel it except to look at pretty scenery on one side and the highway on the other. So virtually no one uses it.
Which is not related to the three other primary absurdities, the least of which is that about a third of the trail goes through a public hunting area. Before long some lonely yuppie will be biking along on his Koga Kimera and notice a guy with a gun. He will make a horrified complaint to pliant authorities who will then be faced with a dilemma. Do they close down hunting, or do they offend the hoplophobic wailers, noisy all out of proportion to their numbers? You get one guess, and it will be right.
It is more ridiculous that this trail -- and all others in this part of the world -- are built to standards more often associated with roadways for Freightliners, fully paved with (most likely) over-specified concrete. Someone with access to the public tit missed the point that a trail, by definition, is intended for Nikes, Schwinns, and baby strollers. Call it, generously, GVW limits of of 600 pounds, and those would be tandems piloted by the couples who badly need the exercise.
The best for last: One and-one half miles of this trail are easily visible from the highway, and just for the Hell of it I counted the traffic control signs -- on the trail and meant only for all those bikes and baby strollers. Forty-two in the mile and one-half. Some warn of curves, the sharpest of which limits visibility to maybe 300 yards. Some alert the soccer moms to the beginning and end of the trail. But most, and I swear to the gods this is true, are incline markers, cautioning that the trail drops or rises 10 or 20 feet in the next couple of hundred yards.
Ignore the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the underused trail bed itself Just multiply 42 by a couple of hundred dollars, the minimum imaginable cost of buying the treated posts, the signs, and people and equipment to install them. You get $8,400.
So what, Jim? You're bitching about a pittance.
No, I'm inviting attention to the reason why our Leaders this week are stumbling around Washington, wall-eyed with the realization that we have nearly borrowed ourselves into Third-World debtor-nation status; why an American plea for IMF bailout loans in the next decade is no longer unthinkable. Why you may wake up one morning in the near future and discover that your stash of well-hidden C-notes, totaling a thousand dollars, for emergencies, won't buy your hungry kid a Happy Meal, even if they remain legal.
Bike trails built to Interstate Highway standards, a million or two to dissuade kids from eating Cheetos, a few billion to send an extra $250 to each of the nation's old farts. They are linked to a pervasive political attitude: "Dream up something -- damned near anything -- that sounds nice and green and healthy and friendly, and, of course, badly needed. Hire a lobbyist. We'll find a way to make you happy by extorting your neighbors, Of course, they're broke too these days, but we'll just borrow what you need and sign their name to it."