Bicycling and walking infrastructure has definitely become hip… so hip that we’re even seeing a lot of it going in here in St. Louis! Both environmental and health concerns (as well as gas prices, I’m sure) have gotten people out of their cars and onto their bikes or their feet. Such infrastructure costs money, though, and no doubt some think it such investments don’t pay off (or think they’re a part of some radical United Nations sustainability plot).
A new report out from the Federal Highway Administration shows that these investments do work, though: essentially, build it and they will come. The Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program started in 2005 in four communities: Columbia, MO; Marin County, CA; Minneapolis, MN; and Sheboygan County, WI. Each community received $25 million dollars to build biking and walking infrastructure: bike paths and lanes, sidewalks, trails, etc. According to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, those investments produced some impressive numbers:
- Over four years, people in these four communities alone walked or bicycled an estimated 32 million miles they would have otherwise driven;
- The communities saw an average increase of 49 percent in the number of bicyclists and a 22 percent increase in the number of pedestrians;
- The percentage of trips taken by bike instead of car increased 36 percent, and those taken on foot increased 14 percent;
- While each pilot community experienced increases in bicycling and walking, fatal bicycle and pedestrian crashes held steady or decreased in all of the communities; and
- The pilot communities saved an estimated 7,701 tons of CO2 in 2010.
I poked around through the report, and was disappointed to not find any mention of the economic impact of these investments – based on previous studies in the US and the UK, I’m guessing these investments also resulted in economic growth in these communities. That kind of information would be great for countering the “government spending” narrative surrounding such investments: show that building such infrastructure pays off literally and qualitatively.
Take a look at the report – if you find something interesting, share it with us.