Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A city where bicycling went from 0.6% to 6.5% in four years

Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman and Madison Director Amanda White are in Chatanooga, Tenn., at Pro Walk Pro Bike 2010, a conference organized by the National Center for Biking and Walking. The annual conference has attracted 500-600 people from around the country, including bicycle advocates, planners and administrators from state departments of transportation, and city pedestrian-bicycle coordinators.

"The consistent overall theme is that the bicycling movement is growing," Amanda says of the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference. More people, including people at all levels of government and business, are getting involved.

Amanda was impressed by a Tuesday session that discussed the incredible increase in bicycling in Seville, Spain, in the past few years. In 2006, just 0.6% of trips were made by bicycle (a little lower than the Wisconsin average). By 2010, the rate was 6.5%, thanks to a concerted effort to encourage bicycling that included installing a network of segregated bike lanes (which can be bike paths or simply lanes that are separated from other traffic by a curb), as well as an extensive bike-share program.

Segregated bicycle facilities have a controversial history in the United States, with many bicyclists concerned that they denote second-class status for people on bikes and interfere with bicyclists' lawful use of the road. (See the website of bicycling advocate John Forester for this perspective.) Their concerns are valid, since some states, like Oregon, prohibit bicyclists from using the main travel lanes wherever a bike lane is present (even a poorly designed lane), or from using the road at all when a bike path is present. Thankfully, Wisconsin is not one of these states, so far recognizing that paths and lanes are not appropriate for every type of bicycling.

Despite the potential drawbacks of segregated bicycle facilities, there is good research to show that, when well-designed, they can enhance safety and increase bicycling rates in compact urban spaces like Seville.

Also today at the conference, Rails to Trails Conservancy announced a petition drive it is launching to encourage the American Automobile Association (AAA) to take a friendlier approach to bicyclists and pedestrians. The president of AAA Mid-Atlantic recently advocated for the elimination of existing federal dollars that help build bicycle and pedestrian trails and sidewalks.

According to the Rails to Trails website,
"AAA Mid-Atlantic suggests that an $89 billion annual highway fund shortfall can be blamed on investments in walking and bicycling. But those investments total less than $1 billion annually and produce tremendous benefits for everyone, including drivers. The reality is that many bicyclists drive, support AAA, pay gas taxes and want balanced transportation systems that provide the choice to get around in a variety of ways—for commuting or daily errands, or for fun and exercise."
You can find our more about the petition here.

Last but not least, it looks like the League of American Bicyclists has been inspired by the city of Madison's bicycle transportation goals. Today, Andy Clarke, the League's president, outlined steps that our nation can take to reach the goal of 20% of trips by bicycle or foot by 2020. Here's the slide that shows how:


Kati said...

With regards to the Rails to Trails petition, there is a considerable stretch (or perhaps honest misinterpretation) of what was written by AAA Mid-Atlantic's President.

The direct quote is:
"What Rep. Oberstar’s (bill) version is expected to do, is further expand the scope of projects on which federal Highway Trust Fund money can be spent.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what each federal reauthorization since 1991 has done—make federal highway funds more “flexible.” That so-called flexibility means using gas taxes not just for highways, but for “non-motorized” transportation as well – including sidewalks, hiking and bike trails—as well as for transit and even completely unrelated projects such as museums.

All of this flexibility over the last two years dovetails—not coincidently—with an increasingly deteriorating highway system…

He concludes this by asking: “So why not let the Highway Trust Fund pay for our highway as intended, and let general revenues address the other expenses.

There is no disagreement that pedestrian and cyclist trails are beneficial. Don's point is merely that the Highway Trust Fund should be used to pay for America's Highways and the general transportation fund for other purposes.

Kathryn @ Bike Fed said...

Thanks for your comment Kati. Highway Trust Fund money is not currently limited to highways in the way that the AAA Mid-Atlantic president describes as his ideal. If it were, that would be a curtailing of its current use. Clearly, the AAA Mid-Atlantic president would like to revert how money is spent to earlier criteria, while Rails to Trails wants to keep the current criteria in place (they may want also to expand it, but that's not the issue being discussed in the petition).

Kati said...

Any time! Yes, I agree that Rails to Trails position is in conflict of AAA Mid-Atlantic's, but I wanted to clarify that in no way has AAA Mid-Atlantic come out as directly opposed to bikes and/or pedestrians on the issue. Thanks! :D