Welcome to today’s edition of “Where are my tax dollars going?” The government’s latest creative use of tax revenue is a $300,000 study on how to ride a bike.
Oh, you thought you already knew how to ride a bike? Allow the National Science Foundation to correct you: “(Almost) everybody knows how to ride a bike, but (almost) no one knows how we ride a bike.”
Isn’t that deep?
The National Science Foundation gave a three hundred thousand dollar grant to professors at the University of California-Davis to “improve the fundamental understanding of how humans interact with bicycles.”
It seems the ultimate goal was to get more people biking and less people driving, in order to save the environment. If we just understood the complex dynamics between rider and bicycle, we’d be more likely to use bikes. The dynamics of driving a motor vehicle must be more understandable; that’s why we drive so much.
There can be no other explanation.
The Washington Free Beacon shares, “researchers set out to come up with new designs to encourage more Americans to bike to lower their carbon footprint.” They explored the possibility of robotic bicycles and a self-balancing Gyrowheel, because humans are just too prone to error. Findings included the fact that a professor could balance his bicycle better when he was tied to the front of the treadmill. How this will affect real cyclists was not clear.
Perhaps they could invent mobile treadmills that could pull us around as we rode our bikes?
The slideshow presenting the results of research touted the study as “famous and award winning!” As evidence of this claim, they reprinted comments from critics only… strangely failing to highlight any voices praising the work.
Critics have been more lucid.
Senator Tom Coburn questioned the value of this grant and many others in his 2011 report, The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope. He urged readers to ask questions when considering government-funded research: “Is this research potentially transformative? Does it represent an important scientific idea? Is it an appropriate expenditure of federal funds at a time when our national debt is over $14 trillion?”
We could also add: “Is it the job of the government, or could somebody else do it?” More often than not, the answer is yes — and in this case, others already are.
Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R., Texas) said the study was unnecessary when considering the bicycle industry is nearing $65 billion a year and puts millions of dollars into research.
“The NSF has gone off the road, and taxpayers are paying for it,” Smith said. “Scarce public funds were awarded for an ill-conceived study to improve bicycle designs.”
“What’s really poorly understood is why the NSF wasted $300,000 of taxpayer money on this project.”
Decisions about taxpayer money are best made as close to home as possible.
Imagine if you took a petition around your neighborhood and asked, “Would you like your taxpayer money to be spent on this bicycle study?” You’d get blank looks and derisive laughter.
When this nation was founded, the government acted only to protect life, liberty and property, but it’s now encroached into every area of life.
The fact that taxpayer money is being used to study bicycle usage is simply the most recent symptom of a government which is more wild and out of control than the professor riding a bike on the actual road.
How’s this for a study tagline:
“(Almost) everybody knows how hard it is to pay taxes, but (almost) no one in the government knows how hard it is to pay taxes.”
Too bad the federal government doesn’t want to get to the bottom of that mystery.