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Phil Covington headshot

Bicycle And Pedestrian Commuting is Up, but House Transportation Bill Eliminates Funding

By Phil Covington

The Alliance for Biking and Walking just released its 2012 Benchmarking Report which details that between 2000 to 2009, the number of commuters who bike to work increased by 57 percent in the USA, and that 12 percent of all trips are now taken by bike or on foot in this country.

The report also highlights bicycle and pedestrian safety issues and the economic benefits that are derived from these activities. This information is worth bearing in mind since this week, the House plans to vote on the approval of a new $260 billion transportation bill, part of which would eliminate bicycle and pedestrian programs - flying in the face of bicycling and pedestrian trends.

This is not good news given the upward trend in fatalities that has accompanied the rise in bicycle commuting. The LA Times reports the largest 51 cities in the country saw an average 29 percent increase in bicycle fatalities since the Alliances 2010 report.

Furthermore, the report details that while pedestrians and cyclists make up 12 percent of all trips that take place, they represent a disproportionate 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, yet receive a mere 1.6 percent of federal transportation dollars - and this is before the House bill proposes to eliminate cycling and pedestrian programs.

Aside from making the inequalities worse, the transportation bill overlooks the economic benefits that cycling and walking bring. The The Alliance for Biking and Walking's benchmark report highlights that investing in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates jobs, stimulates local economies, increases property values and brings long term benefits to health and air quality.

The report concludes that infrastructure projects for pedestrians and cyclists yield 11-14 jobs per $1 million dollars spent as compared with only 7 jobs per million spent on highway projects. Furthermore, cost-benefit analyses show that $11.80 in benefits can be gained for every $1 invested in bicycling and walking.

Given that these programs provide great value, it seems illogical that the House Transportation bill would seek to cut the budget for cyclists and pedestrians. As it stands, the bill would eliminate dedicated funding for the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program — the nation’s largest funding source for trails, walking and bicycling. It would  remove the rail-trail category from TE eligibility, and eliminate funding for bicycle and pedestrian coordinators at state DOT. But perhaps, most sadly of all, it would eliminate funding for the Safe Routes to School program. And considering the number of children who bike or walk to school has decreased by 75 percent between 1966 and 2009 (according to the report) while child obesity has risen by 276 percent in the same period - this seems pretty wrong-headed.

Hopefully an amendment by Republican representatives Tom Petri and Tim Johnson of Wisconsin, who are pro-bike, will force changes to the House bill, and in light of the Alliance for Biking and Walking's report - safeguarding these programs is clearly the right thing to do. Bicycling advocacy groups are urging concerned citizens to contact their congressmembers to ask that bicycle and pedestrian programs are protected in the bill.

Image credit: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

Phil Covington headshot

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.

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