Jim Walden Gets In Sync With the Tea Party Transportation Platform

Gotta hand it to Gibson Dunn attorney Jim Walden. Somehow he’s managed to parlay his neighborhood-level “pro-bono” gig suing the city of New York over a popular protected bike lane into national status as a go-to source for anti-bike quotes. Somewhere along the way, Walden dropped the pretense that he’s fighting for “better bike lanes.”

Back in March, Walden told Brian Lehrer that his clients “are huge supporters of bikes” and that “I do not hope [the lawsuit] has an impact on the broader bike lane plan.” But this week, in a story about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to build 100 miles of protected bikeways, Walden told Reuters that, actually, bike lanes in big cities just aren’t practical:

“Bike lanes are a wonderful idea and people certainly enjoy them, but right now what people need are jobs and ways to make their lives easier,” said New York attorney Jim Walden, who represents plaintiffs in a suit against the Park Slope bike path, which was dismissed by a state judge. “For most big cities, bikes are not a practical way for people to move.”

Nope, not a practical way to move in big cities. When you only have to go one or two miles to get where you need to be, you need maximum lane-miles for motor vehicles. In a time of austerity, cars must continue to monopolize our streets. If households cut back on the thousands of dollars they spend each year maintaining and fueling their vehicles, the economy would tank.

Walden, it seems, would fit right in with the far right-wing pols who see biking as a recreational activity, not a real transportation option. Pols like Tea Party Senator Rand Paul, who, like Walden, has a tendency to warp the numbers to suit his agenda. Last week Paul told Fox News that the 1.5 percent of federal funding dedicated to bike and pedestrian projects is actually 10 percent, and that it’s making our bridges collapse:

Right now we set aside 10 percent for bike paths and turtle tunnels and squirrel sanctuaries and all this craziness. I’m going to say, “let’s take 10 percent of the highway fund, set it aside for emergencies, then have a national priority list and say if this bridge is closed down that’s a national emergency, let’s fix it as a priority.”

Pols like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who’s proposed cutting the federal bike-ped program and yanking federal support for bike-sharing. Cantor’s also adept at making bike programs out to cost more than they actually do. The feds have only spent a couple of million on bike-sharing, which the Ohio Virginia rep cleverly masked within the wider pool of bike-ped funding:

The Federal government distributed more than $53 billion in funding for highways and transit projects in FY 2011 from the federal highway and transit trust funds. Federal excise taxes on gasoline sales are supposed to support these programs, however spending has significantly exceeded gas tax revenues in recent years. One reason for the excess has been federal spending on projects that don’t involve highways or transit systems at all, including federally funded bike sharing programs. Bike sharing programs were part of the more than $1 billion the federal government spent on programs to promote biking and walking in 2010. Federal bike and walking programs received hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars in addition to an annually recurring funding base that now exceeds $600 million.

Pols like North Carolina rep Patrick McHenry, who infamously ridiculed bikes as a “19th century solution” in a 2007 speech on the House floor:

A major component of the Democrats’ energy legislation and the Democrats’ answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle.

Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pumps, is: Ride a bike.

When Walden and his politically-connected clients first sued the city to remove the PPW bike path, the Brooklyn Paper speculated that he could be trying to curry favor with Senator Chuck Schumer, whose wife was among his clients. The political winds are shifting though. In a few years, it could be President Perry who needs to fill a vacancy in the Southern District of New York.