Since the nation's first-ever experiment to gauge the impact
of concentrated investment in biking and walking infrastructure in America was
launched in 2007, lawmakers and transportation planners have been awaiting this
moment - the publication of the project data evaluating the real impact of this
infrastructure on communities.
Now, the numbers are in-and data counts reveal a more
positive impact than even the program's most ardent advocates anticipated.
The U.S. Congress last week was handed the statistical
analysis of the first three years of the groundbreaking Nonmotorized
Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP), which dedicated $25 million to each of
four communities across the country to accurately demonstrate whether such
investments equate to significantly higher levels of walking and bicycling, and
a reduction in vehicle miles traveled.
Between 2007 and 2010, new multi-use paths, bike lanes,
pedestrian routes and trails in the four pilot communities - Minneapolis,
Minn., Sheboygan County, Wisc., Marin County, Calif., and Columbia, Mo. - resulted
in an estimated 32 million driving miles being averted. Non-motorized
transportation infrastructure enabled local residents to choose to walk or bike
for local trips, reducing traffic congestion and pollution, improving physical
activity rates and sharply cutting into time spent driving.
Counts in the four pilot communities revealed an average
increase of 49 percent more bicyclists and 22 percent more pedestrians between
2007 and 2010. The mode shift in these communities - how many people switched
from cars to biking and walking for trips - also far outstripped the national
average for the same period.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today
described the release of NTPP data as an "eye-opening report on the value of
investing in nonmotorized transportation."
Established and funded by federal transportation legislation
SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A
Legacy for Users) in 2005 - and with management support from Rails-to-Trails
Conservancy (RTC) - NTPP set aside $100 million for biking and walking
infrastructure in four communities of varying size across the country.
"Anecdotally, we have already heard overwhelming evidence of
how each community's investment in bike lanes, trails and sidewalks has
returned myriad benefits," says Marianne Fowler, RTC's senior vice president of
federal relations,. "Not just helping people get from A to B but also
increasing physical activity levels and energizing downtown shopping districts.
These effects have been hailed by everyone from business leaders and elected
officials, to health workers and teachers, across the four pilot communities. It
is great to see those outcomes reflected in hard data."
Fowler says that with the evidence now in black and white
before them, Congressional representatives across the nation must be compelled
to recognize that continued investment in walking in biking represents terrific
value for American taxpayers. Multiply the data from these four communities on
a national scale, after all, and the results are simply astounding.
The report on the impact of the NTPP comes at an opportune
time, with the House and Senate still locked in debate over the passage of the
next federal Transportation Bill. With opponents of walking and biking
infrastructure claiming it is a frivolous use of transportation funding in
these tough economic times, the testimony of state and local leaders,
businesspeople, residents and health officials as to their cost-efficiency and
effectiveness, and data supporting their improved functioning of transportation
systems, will be welcome messages.
"These are not all typical, bike-friendly cities," Fowler
says. "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. 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."
Kevin Mills, RTC's vice president of policy and trail development,
says that even though the findings of this report are already compelling, they
are just the tip of the iceberg.
"Changes in behavior related to infrastructure take years to
emerge, as bike paths and trails and sidewalks become familiar parts of
people's daily lives," Mills says. "That we are already seeing such significant
increases in biking and walking in these communities is encouraging. But it is
just the beginning of the amazing shift in travel behavior that we expect to
"By every measure, this program has been a raging success
for these four communities," Mills says. "They prove that concentrated
investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure produces a significant
shift in the way people get around. These documented increases in trips taken
on bike and by foot represent significant reductions in vehicle miles
travelled, helping to cut congestion, pollution and health-care costs while
increasing mobility for all citizens. These improvements represent a terrific
return on investment. We hope that this compelling evidence will catch the eye
of those lawmakers who are, as we speak, making decisions about America's
The report estimates that boosting the amount of pedestrian
and bicycle activity in these communities reduced the economic cost of
mortality by about $6.9 million. Doctors and the broader public health
community have long been advocating increasing opportunities for biking and
walking as a cost-effective strategy to reduce illness and wasteful spending on
reactive health care.
"From the public health perspective of reversing the
intertwined trio of obesity, type II diabetes and physical inactivity, the NTPP
represents a true front line intervention," says Kristina Jones, RTC's healthy communities
manager. "In addition to the human burden, diabetes and prediabetes alone cost
Americans $218 billion in 2007. We know that physical activity is crucial to
prevention and control - prevention that in the coming years will save these
communities many millions of dollars in unnecessary reactive health care."
data on the success of the NTPP will be made available in the coming months.
AWESOME!!!! But big oil, the car industry, and all congressmen and senators they fund are not done yet.
Biking and Walking Trails have so much wonderful impact on our country, yet our Senators and Congressmen just don't get it. Help the health of ALL the population and approve more GOOD things.
Excellent data for ALL to see. It also opens the eyes of local government to see why LOCAL government should help back any and all efforts to support,organize and follow through with local trail movements. I have personally witnessed the regrowth of downtown sections of my home in winter garden fl.
Store fronts that were boarded up and ready for the wrecking ball to be replaced by yet another GAS station we simply don't need,to a quaint coffee,bike shop,antique shops with outside tables to enjoy a beautifully fall day. They are ALL no matter what size town or city a boon to the economic community. People with businesses that were barley scraping by now have 500 cyclist going by there place of business in single weekend. Enabling them continue to stay open.And the spin offs from that....pay taxes,creates employment opertunities BECAUSE the business in now thriving and needs more help. And on and on. It's all a plus. Please continue your great efforts on keeping the public aware of the struggle we will ALWAYS be faced with when dealing with negative portions of government weather city,state or frederal. I salute you. Tailwinds
This is great news, but I am struck by the attitude that we have to depend on the government to do this kind of thing for us. While I DO think infrastructure is a proper role for government, when did doing good things for the community become just the government's responsibility? If it's good for the community, why can't the community come together, raise money for these types of projects, and not depend on the government for everything?
People who choose to ride their bielyccs on public roads of any type need to be held to the same licensing structure and tests we automobile drivers must complete. It needs to be only specific to driving/using a bicycle. No one is exempt. If bicyclists use our roads, etc., they need to pay for the ability to use them. If bicyclists and motorists are to share the road equally, then bicyclists need to be licensed by first taking a test and paying for it to drive/ride their bielyccs on any and all roads, etc., just as we do to drive our vehicles. Next, bicyclists need to purchase licenses for their bielyccs just as we do for our vehicles. Bicycle riders/drivers need to have their bielyccs inspected & pay those fees every year just as vehicle owners do. With this equality there is revenue generated by the same processes we drivers of vehicles are required to complete, pass and pay for.Thank you.
Agreed Ellen Drake. There has been progress but it has been too slow.
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