Politics bike walking path

Published on May 4th, 2012 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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Bike Paths and Sidewalks: Transportation Investments that Work

a pedestrian on a path for biking and walking

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.

via Planetizen

Image credit: splityarn via photo pin cc



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • http://www.terracompr.com Christine Esposito

    Not to mention the health benefits. Would have been interesting to see if there were any measurable changes relative to public health with the increase in physical activity — and related savings in health care costs.

    • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      Definitely… thanks for jumping in, Christine!

  • http://unexpectedenvironmentalist.blogspot.com/ Kallie

    I just started leading a beginner series of rides with my cycling group, so many people want to start riding, but need a safe place to ride until they get comfortable with their bike and improve their skills. We are lucky to have a bike path that runs along one of our rivers, but most of us have to drive to get to it. I know more people would be on bikes and out of cars if they felt they had a safe place to ride them.

  • Pingback: The Bicycle Economy Continues to Grow | Sustainablog

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