Suppose you want to spend some money — call it stimulus — on projects that will 1) employ people who badly need employment, 2) give citizens real transportation options, and 3) do a lot of good things for the envionrment and public health (just to name a few). Hmmmmm… what could you build?
How about bicycle infrastructure?
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has been a Congressional champion of cycling for many years. He’s sounding the alarm at Huffington Post because some of his colleagues want to strip cycling money from the stimulus bill.
(Note: Blumenauer is specifically targeting Republicans. He’s taking a partisan perspective. But, really, there are also plenty of Democrats who “don’t get it.” So let’s cut the acrimony and get on with the hard work of saving the U.S.)
I can think of no other transportation investment that provides more benefits to American communities who so desperately need: more jobs, reduced transportation costs, increased personal health, a cleaner environment, reduced carbon footprint, and greater community livability…. Investments in bike and pedestrian infrastructure will help us create jobs and build healthier more livable communities for the future — these projects are the gifts that keep on giving.
Well, yeah. But what about public transportation? What about trains and light rail? Let’s not overstate the case. What we need is an integrated and egalitarian transportation system that gives people real options, including those too young, poor, or elderly to drive. Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure certainly plays an important role. Perhaps we should be thinking of it as part of an integrated active/public transportation plan. Cycling should not be just another special interest.
Blumenauer is spot on here:
Bicycling also has immediate and direct benefits for communities that invest in bicycle paths, bike lanes, trails, and secure bicycle parking. For each $1 million invested in an FHWA-approved paved bicycle or multi-use trail, the local economy gains 65 jobs and between $50 and $100 million in local economic benefits. Some communities are already showing the results of these investments. After investing less than 1% of their total transportation budget in bicycle facilities in the past eight years, the City of Portland has seen a 144% increase in bicycle use – and the growth of a $90 million bicycle industry that has added nearly 50 new businesses in just the past two years.
Wow. You mean it’s good for business, too?
Well, of course. Give people options and they will use them. More than that: They will make something of them. Give people a safer cycling environment and they will ride bicycles. Make downtown Springfield a cycling destination and people will ride there and spend money. Create a bicycle/pedestrian beltway around Springfield incorporating the greenway system and you’ll have a safe and efficient way to get people moving to their jobs, schools, and favorite shopping.
The hardest part of this isn’t all the usual excuses you hear from politicians and bureaucrats. The hardest part is mustering the political will. Steps you can take now:
1. Sign the bicycle infrastructure petition. You can find one at your local bicycle shop. Check the sidebar for links to a bicycle shop near you.
2. Call or write your your state and federal representatives and senators. Let them know that you support bicycle projects as part of the stimulus plan.
3. Call or write the City of Springfield and the city council. Let them know that cycling is good for business, and building cycling infrastructure is good for jobs.
4. Practice the 1-mile Solution. Numbers of cyclists on the road show interest and support as well as make cycling even safer than it already is.
5. Have an idea for a cycling/active transporation project? Leave a comment. We’ll talk.