Bike infrastructure pays big dividends

Most arguments against bike lanes are absurd.

Most arguments against bike lanes are absurd.

Consider this: we have wide roads everywhere to accommodate cars. On either side of many of those roads, we have pedestrian sidewalks. In most large urban areas, we also have bus lanes and transit systems.

When cyclists ride on roads, drivers often get annoyed. If they ride on sidewalks, pedestrians rightly get angry.

Human-powered transportation will only get more popular as gas prices rise and as the negative consequences of our car-centric culture increase. We should be doing everything we can to discourage single-occupant automobile use while encouraging public transit and pedestrian and pedal-powered movement.

In many North American cities, commuters scream bloody murder if it takes them an extra two minutes to get to their destination by car.

There’s also the argument that slowing car traffic down is a good thing.

In some European cities, planners are finding that making life more difficult for drivers while providing incentives for people to take transit, walk or cycle creates numerous benefits, from reducing pollution and smog-related health problems to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and making cities safer and friendlier.

Building bike lanes also creates jobs and other economic spin-offs, according to a study from the Political Economy Research Institute in Amherst, Mass.

Researchers found that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending.

For every $1 million spent, cycling projects created an average of 11 jobs in the state where the project was located, pedestrian-only projects created about 10 jobs, and multi-use trails created about 10 jobs. Infrastructure combining road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities created slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects created the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million.

One of the main reasons is that more of the money for road-building goes to materials and equipment whereas with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure more goes to wages and salaries.

It’s important to note that European cities have matched disincentives to drive with improved public transit. After all, not everyone can get to their destination by walking or cycling. But with fewer cars and reduced gridlock, those who must use automobiles — including service and emergency-response vehicles and taxis — have an easier time getting around.

Fortunately, the backlash against cycling infrastructure improvements appears to be subsiding. As oil becomes scarce and pollution and climate change increase, people are finally realizing that transporting a 90-kilogram person in two tons of metal just isn’t sustainable, especially in urban areas.

 

 

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