Bike Summit & the Transportation Bill

29 Mar

The National Bike Summit, the biggest conference and lobbying effort for cycling in the country, was held last week in D.C., and you’ll be glad to know that Virginia was well-represented.  We have some great cycling advocates, many of them from Richmond, who do huge amounts of work behind the scenes trying to influence state and national policy in favor of cycling.  The Virginia Bicycling Federation has a report here.  Check out the League of American Bicyclists blog for more coverage.

Unfortunately the jury is still out with respect to what funding for cycling infrastructure will look like in the new transportation bill.  As reported by Bicycling Magazine and many other publications, the original House bill essentially eliminated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects (not to mention mass transit as well).  This is especially troubling because even the relatively generous funding for bike and pedestrian projects in recent years has made up only 1.5  percent of all federal transportation funding, while an average of 12 percent of all trips made in the U.S. are made using those modes.

Fortunately, the House bill did not receive much support, and the Senate has passed a much better bill.  As the D.C. Streetsblog reports, however, it is unclear whether the House will pass the Senate bill.  It’s not too late to contact your representative in the House to encourage him or her to support the Senate bill.  To look up your representative and get contact information, click here.  Please call or write today: representatives will either vote on an extension of the present bill (most likely) or something else this week!

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose wasteful spending, but most bicycle and pedestrian projects do not fall into that category.  And the cost-benefit ratio of bike and pedestrian projects is arguably better than highway infrastructure, especially if you factor in the benefits to public health as well as to local businesses.

Consider this: the I-295 flyover near Short Pump cost $67 million (see Phil Riggan’s previous discussion on Richmond.com here).  The entire first phase — around 80 miles — of shared lane markings (“sharrows”) and a couple hundred new bike racks for the city will cost about $1 million — 1.5 percent of the cost of that flyover.  Just imagine the kind of bike and pedestrian infrastructure Richmond would have if we had even half of that $67 million!  To be clear: I’m not saying we should let our roads and bridges rot in order to create bike lanes.  But those lanes are comparatively cheap as infrastructure goes, and the benefits far outweigh the cost.

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