If you ever doubted whether a small investment in biking and walking could have a large impact, here is your proof.
The last transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, provided four communities with four years of funding to build an infrastructure network for nonmotorized transportation (a fancy way of saying “sidewalks and bike paths”). It wasn’t a lot of money — $25 million each to Columbia, Missouri; Marin County, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Sheboygan County, Wisconsin.
The program built 333 miles of on-street biking and walking routes, 23 of off-street facilities, and 5,727 bike parking spaces in the four municipalities — not to mention some outreach and education. Not bad, especially when you consider that $100 million would only buy about five miles of new four-lane highway in an urbanized area…
The FHWA report is full of data showing how a small down payment on active transportation can lead — quickly — to dramatic improvements in air quality, traffic levels, and public health.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a major supporter of the pilot program, called it a “raging success.”
“These are not all typical, bike-friendly cities,” said Marianne Fowler, RTC’s senior vice president of federal relations. ”These four communities represent a solid cross-section of America. Even in places like Sheboygan, which doesn’t have urban density, has cold winters, and has had almost no experience with biking and walking initiatives in the past, locals have rapidly become champions because they have seen the real-time effects, the actual benefits to their community.”
Fowler went on to say that with the evidence now in black and white before them, Congressional representatives must now recognize that continued investment in walking in biking represents terrific value for American taxpayers.
“The incongruous thing is that Congress, with a simple, low-cost solution to so many transportation problems right here in front of them, can’t see the people for the cars,” she said.