November 4, 2011

 

Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding is Key to Our Nation's Health
by Brent Hugh

 

(This is a response to a recent AP FACT CHECK article, which can be found at

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hvcktYhECCBpfi_N0r6mKTZwBO9Q) 

 

A small group of U.S. senators is forcing a vote on a proposal to eliminate bicycle/pedestrian funding in the federal transportation budget. A recent AP Fact Check article checked up on opponents' claims and found none of them hold any air.

That's not surprising, because Transportation Enhancements, lawmakers' main target, is the single largest source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the U.S. today.

Those bicycle and pedestrian projects are important, popular, and much needed.

Since 1991, this funding has helped turn the tide in America, from a country that had completely neglected bicycle and pedestrian needs for decades, to one that puts bicycle and pedestrian spending somewhere on the nation's priority list, even if still lower than it should be.

Enhancements funding is used effectively and fills an important need in communities large and small, and ranging from urban to suburban to rural. Bicycle and pedestrian projects are inexpensive, cost-effective, popular with citizens, and well used.

Like many federal programs of this type, Transportation Enhancements puts decision-making power in the hands of local communities, subject to rules and oversight from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The result is that local communities prioritize and build projects they want and need--not necessarily the ones federal bureaucrats or Congressional staff, far removed from the needs of hometown U.S.A, would prioritize or build.

These projects are vitally needed and very popular with constituents from every side of the political aisle.

For example, Transportation Enhancements in Missouri has provided partial funding and support for projects in Missouri that have:

 • Filled in sidewalk gaps along major streets (that also just happen to be state or federal highways) in cities and towns

 • Created safe bicycle and pedestrian crossing points of rivers, freeways, railroads, and other major barriers

 • Built major connecting pieces that have served as the anchor and starting point of trails system in cities across Missouri

 • Funded the initial stages of citywide bicycle plans

 • Built the Katy Trail and connections to it

 • Created bicycle and pedestrian access along or parallel to major highways and streets that were originally built without bike/ped access.

For those of us who want to see bicycling and walking become the norm in the U.S. again, preserving a fair share of federal funding for bicycling and walking should be at the very top of the priority list.

It's only a few cents out of every transportation dollar, but it makes a huge difference in creating attractive, healthy, vibrant communities across America.

And we've tried the alternative. We saved a few cents on the dollar and reaped a harvest of ugly, unhealthy, unwalkable communities with a too-heavy dependence on foreign oil.

Let's don't go down that road--the one with no sidewalks, crosswalks, or bike lanes--again.

Brent Hugh is executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, a statewide coalition of bicyclists, walkers, runners, trail organizations and related businesses which represents over 30,000 Missourians and advocates on behalf of the state's two million ardent bicyclists and six million walkers. More information can be found at http://MoBikeFed.org.