In an effort to encourage more bike riding and reduce the carbon footprint, researchers at the University of California, Davis are trying to educate the public on the "poorly understood" dynamics of the bicycle while improving its design. The government's National Science Foundation contributed $300,000 to the bike study, a distribution of funds that one Republican Representative from Texas is calling a waste of taxpayers' money — in a pun-filled statement, no less. But is it really a waste of money?
The study, titled "Human Control of Bicycle Dynamics with Experimental Validation and Implications for Bike Handling and Design," was conducted from 2009 to 2013. During that time, researchers assessed the challenges in how humans ride bikes in order to develop "validated dynamic models of the bicycle system under human rider control design," similar to models used by the aerospace industry to improve the design of aircraft. The research team also tried to create other deliverables, including software tools for the further study of bicycle dynamics and methods of educating students on the benefits of bike transportation.
According to the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency, the $300,000 grant was awarded because, if successful, the research will help scientists better understand how humans interact with their bicycles and help to improve the "design of bicycles for a wider population audience and for a wider range of tasks." The study abstract states:
Systematic design of bicycles with more utilitarian purposes (as opposed to recreation) may be made possible, which in turn will lead to lower cost, healthier, and more sustainable modes of personal transportation.
Not Everyone Is Along For the Ride
However, not everyone saw the study as worthwhile, and especially not worth $300,000 of taxpayers' money. Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who is chairman of the House's Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, blasted the National Science Foundation's decision to fund the project, but interestingly, he did so with the use of puns. If I may, Smith flew off the handle and punished the NSF with the following statement:
The NSF has gone off the road, and taxpayers are paying for it. Scarce public funds were awarded for an ill-conceived study to improve bicycle designs. Peddling their proposal, the researchers asserted that bicycle riding dynamics are 'poorly understood.' Yet bicycling is a $65 billion per year global industry that invests hundreds of millions in research and development. What’s really poorly understood is why the NSF wasted $300,000 of taxpayer money on this project.
It's Time to Shift Gears
Very punny, Smith, very punny. But we know you were trying to make a serious point. However, given that the government spends trillions of dollars a year, including that one time they, according to ABC News, spent $1.5 million of taxpayers' money on a laundry-folding robot and that time the GOP spent more than $3 million of our money on Benghazi investigations, $300K is a drop in the bucket in comparison.
What's more, any research directed toward the reduction of the carbon footprint is more than likely worthwhile. One of the action areas identified by the U.N.'s Climate Summit was greenhouse gas emissions related to city transportation. According to The Nature Conservancy, a fifth of carbon emissions in the U.S. come from personal cars and trucks, and the U.S. makes up about a fifth of the world's total carbon emissions. Drastically reducing those emissions by choosing bike transportation could be crucial in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere overall. As a taxpayer, that's one goal that I don't mind my money going toward.
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