Can We Learn from China’s Stimulus?

As our own economic-recovery package moves through Congress, Streetsblog Network member Stimulus Bike looks at the massive stimulus spending on transportation being rolled out in China, which was analyzed in a recent New York Times article. Much of China’s money is going to high-speed rail, according to the Times:

3015770446_12d50b9a09.jpgStill on the bike in Beijing. Photo by Laura Conaway.

China will spend $88 billion constructing intercity rail lines, the
highest priority in the plan. It spent $44 billion last year and just $12 billion as recently as 2004, said John Scales, the transport coordinator for China at the World Bank….

Feng Fei, the director general of industrial economics at the policy research unit of China’s cabinet, the State Council, said that steep increases in railroad investments would create lasting benefits. The goal is to slow China’s dependence on personal cars and imported oil, to reduce air pollution and to relieve the annual shortage of seats on trains during Chinese New Year, when millions of people visit their families, he said.

Stimulus Bike also makes the point that despite the recent rise of the car in China, the nation’s people still rely heavily on bicycles for transportation. Obviously, the differences between our nations are many, but can we take some lessons from China’s vision for the future of mobility?

Speaking of bicycles as transportation, here are some hopeful signs on that front from elsewhere around the network: According to Pennsylvania blog Walk and Bike Berks County, a township planning commission in Denver, PA, is calling for developers of a new shopping center to provide "bicycle racks around the parking lot to accommodate …families who rely on bicycles for transportation." Kudos to the planning commission for recognizing that families can rely on bicycles for transportation.

Also, in Detroit, M-Bike.org notes that the city’s new mayor, Ken Cockrel — a cyclist who is committed to a green agenda — has fundamentally changed the city’s attitude toward bikes for the better. Cockrel came to office after the previous scandal-plagued mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, resigned. He’ll be running for election in a special primary this spring, and it sounds like he’s got a good shot at the livable streets vote.

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