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The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.
"Commuters complain that increased rush-hour traffic on Blue Highway between the suburbs and the city center has doubled their commuting time. The favored proposal of the motorists' lobby is to widen the highway, adding an additional lane of traffic. But last year's addition of a lane to the nearby Green Highway was followed by a worsening of traffic jams on it. A better alternative is to add a bicycle lane to Blue Highway. Many area residents are keen bicyclists. A bicycle lane would encourage them to use bicycles to commute, and so would reduce rush-hour traffic rather than fostering an increase."
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
The author of the letter to the editor proposes adding a bicycle lane to Blue Highway instead of an additional lane of traffic as an alternative to reduce rush-hour traffic. However, the author’s argument depends on several pieces of evidence that if weakened invalidates the argument.
First the author compares Blue Highway to Green Highway. Green Highway had an additional lane of traffic added last year that worsened traffic jams. The author uses this as evidence to support a bicycle lane. However, we need more information on Green Highway before it can be used as supporting evidence. Green Highway is in a different location than Blue Highway, thus, it may not have the same number of drivers commuting between the city and the suburbs. Furthermore, the construction of the additional lane of traffic occurred last year on Green Highway. The current driving habits of area residents may be different than those drivers on Green Highway; Green Highway could be the shortest route from the suburbs to a city river or beach whereas Blue Highway may not be. However we just don’t know; therefore the author needs additional evidence to support the argument. If the author cannot provide the additional evidence then the argument is weakened.
Additionally the author labels many area residents as keen bicyclists and bolsters the argument with this evidence. However how does the author know that the area bicyclists would use the lane? The area residents may like bicycling recreationally as a social opportunity and may not want to commute using a bicycle. Secondly, the distance from their homes to their city destinations may be too far and the residents may not commute on bicycles. Furthermore the city may not be bicycle friendly, thus, bicyclists would not want to commute on bicycles to a destination not suited for bicycles. More evidence about the area bicyclists and their habits and likes is needed before the author can use this to buttress the argument.
Finally the author states that a bicycle lane would reduce traffic. However, how does the author know a bicycle lane would reduce traffic? It may increase traffic rather than reduce it. Without further evidence and explanations, the author cannot assume a bicycle lane will reduce traffic. Furthermore we must also know how much a bicycle lane would reduce traffic. The author uses vague language and does not provide numerical figures as to how much traffic would reduce. It could be 0.5%, 2%, or even 80% traffic reduction; however, we do not know and therefore cannot assume it is worth constructing a bicycle lane without specific language on the traffic reduction percentage.
The author uses the comparison of Blue Highway to another area highway, the presence of bicyclists as area residents as well as he use of vague language to describe traffic reduction as evidence to support his argument that a bicycle lane of traffic is needed to reduce traffic. However, the author must provide additional evidence to support the argument. First the author needs to provide more information on Green Highway before it can be used to compare the two highways. The author should provide information about Green Highway’s location and whether the drivers are similar to those using Blue Highway. Further, the author needs to provide supporting information about the area bicyclists. Do the bicyclists bicycle as a means of transportation or as a way to socialize with others and stay fit? We must also know if the area bicyclists have interest in commuting the city on a bicycle and whether the city is bicycle friendly. Finally the author assumes a bicycle lane would reduce traffic but what does the author mean by reduce? Traffic reduction could be only 0.5% or 77%. The author must use numerical values when describing traffic reduction. Without this evidence the argument is weakened and a bicycle lane should not be built.
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