Bike Trails

Rows of bicycles are parked at Dehler Park for a trail fundraising event.

As bicycling enthusiasts, we know that decreasing the number of miles people travel in motor vehicles reduces dependence on fossil fuels and helps decrease air pollution. Bicycling and walking are pollution-free modes of transportation that also build community, keep us fit and healthy, and save money at the pumps.

Cars are among the largest contributors to air pollution because they emit not only carbon dioxide, but also pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate pollution. Cycling does not produce any of these pollutants and thus can help keep city air clean to breathe. Mile for mile, short car trips are the most polluting; they are also the easiest to replace with bike trips.

Given our commitment to active transportation as means of improving human health, community health, and environmental health, the Trump Administration’s proposal to roll back greenhouse gas standards and fuel efficiency standards – one of the most important steps the United States has taken to reduce carbon pollution from light-duty vehicles and fight climate change – is especially offensive.

These cleaner car standards, finalized six years ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with broad support from automakers, labor and consumers, have cut harmful climate pollution and will nearly double our current fuel economy performance by 2025.

The attempted reversal of these standards, on the other hand, is yet another example of the Trump Administration putting the interest of polluters ahead of Americans’ and the planet’s health.

Most everybody knows that the transportation sector is now the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change. Having cleaner cars is essential to protecting Americans from the worst impacts of climate change.

Perhaps less well known is that the standards already have a long track record of success, having allowed us to successfully limit harmful car emissions and increase fuel efficiency for consumers since 2012. Not only do the cleaner cars standards already have a proven track record, they are also achievable. Independent analyses show that automakers are currently on track to meet the standards at a lower cost than originally anticipated.

The cleaner car standards are likewise highly popular with the public. Earlier this year, the American Lung Association released poll findings showing that nearly seven in 10 voters support strong car standards, showing these this is not a partisan issue.

Cleaner cars standards are critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change. Across the country, we are seeing the impacts of climate change in front of our eyes — from heat waves and droughts to wildfires and floods. Here in Montana, wildfires and heatwaves are resulting in increased levels of particle pollution from wildfire smoke, and climate change is already taking a toll on our most vulnerable populations through degraded air quality.

Rolling back the cleaner cars standards would hinder our ability to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change, including from worsened air pollution. Children are at a higher health risk from air pollution because of their developing lungs and time spent outdoors. Those with asthma are at a higher health risk since air pollution can trigger asthma attacks. And older adults are at higher risk of developing health problems from increased air pollution.

What we would like to see is more people getting out of their cars and more policies that promote active transportation. Apart from reduced car travel, at a minimum, the EPA and NHTSA needs to fulfill their responsibility to protect the health of all Americans and maintain the current cleaner cars standards.

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Emma Wimmer represents Bike Walk Alliance of Missoula. Laurie Stalling represents Women Bike Missoula.