• State Funding for Bike/Ped Infrastructure (1)

    by  • February 10, 2011 • Walkable Bikeable Delaware • 0 Comments

    Bike Delaware member (and former president of the White Clay Bicycle Club) Jeff Butcher:

    “Approximately 2 percent of state residents rely on non-motorized transportation for daily travel. Cyclists and pedestrians suffer a disproportionately higher rate of injuries and fatalities (in excess of 2 percent) than do their motorized counterparts. If injury and fatality rates were proportional, it would seem fair to fund improvements at percentage rates proportional to usage, in this case 2 percent towards cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. However, and considering the higher rates of injuries and deaths attributed to cyclists and pedestrians, it would seem both fair and prudent to provide funding in excess of 2 percent, not less, in order to address the disproportionate carnage.

    “I mix walking, cycling, and driving a car as my personal modes of transportation. I value being able to use my car when either walking or cycling is impractical. I cannot accurately be described as an anti-automobile fanatic. Our road system, designed for motorized traffic, is well developed compared to Delaware’s infrastructure that is suitable for cyclists and pedestrians. In light of rising fuel prices and the great expense associated with road improvements for motorized traffic, it seems fair and makes good sense to encourage other modes of transportation, if for no other reason than to reduce the stress on the system designed for motorized vehicles. It is patently unfair to fund cycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements at a level lower than the percentage of use, especially considering the injury and fatality rates.

    “It would be fair and prudent to increase funding for improvements to infrastructure friendly to cyclists and pedestrians. A level of 2 percent, or preferably higher, would be appropriate.”

    It is good that, when multimillion dollar road projects are built by DelDOT, some thought is given to walking and bicycling. This “routine accommodation” means that, for example, when a massive project like the Indian River Inlet Bridge is built, it may feature a shoulder striped as a bike lane. Or, similarly, other projects to relieve road congestion by expanding roads from 2 travel lanes to 4 may include painted bike lanes.

    But we also have to be realistic. Little isolated bits of bicycle infrastructure appearing here and there, stranded, and unconnected to a larger bikeway network or to any strategic plan of investment and embedded in a high-speed road network, are unlikely to spur increases in bicycling. The experience of other places is that only strategic, targeted, stable and long-term investment of the kind described by Jeff Butcher can do that.

    We’ve been investing heavily in transportation infrastructure for cars and trucks for at least the last 60 years while walking and bicycling have been marginalized. Our roads are wider, smoother, straighter and faster than they’ve ever been. Commute distances have skyrocketed; the percentages of kids who walk or bike to school has plummeted; obesity and adult diabetes rates have exploded; and everybody drives everywhere to do everything. It’s time to try something a little different. As Jeff says, let’s invest a few pennies out of every capital transportation dollar, directly, to make walking and bicycling both safe and convenient in Delaware. We will not only better serve the current population who depend on these modes; we will also make it more attractive for people to get where they want to go on a bike or on their own 2 feet. On a nice spring day, who would want to burn hydrocarbons when they can burn carbohydrates instead, if it was safe and convenient for them to do?


    James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware. He is a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (by whom he was named the 2014 Professional of the Year, Nonprofit Sector), the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Delaware Bicycle Council. He serves on the board of directors of Delaware Greenways and the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance and as the co-chair of the policy committee of the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness. He holds engineering degrees from Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin and is the only registered lobbyist for cycling and walking in Delaware. He helped create, and continues to lead Bike Delaware's participation in, the Walkable Bikeable Delaware campaign. During his tenure as Bike Delaware's executive director, Delaware advanced in the national Bicycle Friendly State rankings for five years in a row, farther and faster than any other state, ever.

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