It is an “eye-opening report on the value of investing in nonmotorized transportation,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote in his blog “FastLane” earlier this month, acknowledging the value of bicycling as a transportation option and as exercise.
“Of course, when I was a kid, every month was bike month,” LaHood wrote. “Your bike was how you went everywhere. But somewhere along the way, things changed among kids as well as adults, and the percentage of Americans bicycling as a form of transportation declined.”
The report is the summation of the FHWA’s four-year effort “to construct a network of sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian and bicycle trails connecting directly with schools, residences, businesses, recreation areas, transit centers, and other community activity centers,” LaHood noted.
The pilot program was launched in four communities: Columbia, Mo.; Marin County, Calif.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Sheboygan County, Wis.The results demonstrate “that education and engineering can work together to make bicycling more convenient and safer,” La Hood wrote. The program, he said, “has proven to be a great success.”
LaHood noted some of the major findings:
·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
The report also found that in the pilot communities in 2010, additional nonmotorized trips reduced the economic cost of mortality by an estimated $6.9 million; an estimated 22 pounds of CO2 per person were saved, which is the equivalent to saving more than one gallon of gas per person, or nearly 1.7 million gallons of gas from 2007 to 2010; and many people tried bicycling for the first time.