Cycling spending dries up south of the border

Cars and roads get almost all the bucks, while bike and pedestrian projects receive less than one percent of federal money earmarked for transportation

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      This story was previously published by the Daily Climate

      It's that time of year: Bicyclists young and old are lubing chains and dusting off cheap supermarket bikes, top-of-the line Treks, and everything in between.

      A bike, of course, offers a way to get exercise, reduce your carbon footprint, or just have fun.

      But biking activity, in large part, is driven by the pedalling opportunities available in your community. And just about no matter where you are in the United States, the opportunities available aren't going to change much in the near future, according to a cycling group's analysis.

      Four-year projection grim

      "States are not planning to spend all that much on biking and walking over the next four years," said Ken McLeod, a legal specialist for Advocacy Advance, a partnership between the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking & Walking. 

      The group assessed transportation spending in all 50 states, looking at projects on the books over the next four years and costing a total of $697 billion in mostly federal money. Bike and pedestrian-only projects slated for the next four years account for $5.5 billion of that total, less than 0.8 percent.

      The 112-page report, Lifting the Veil on Bicycle and Pedestrian Spending, also cast a wider net, looking at road projects that included a bike or pedestrian element, such as a bike lane.

      bike spending chart-550a

      Washington, Maryland, Alaska, Massachusetts, and New Jersey lead the nation in that category. Washington tops the list, with 27.1 percent of all planned project spending offering something for bikers or pedestrians, according to the 112-page analysis by the cyclists' league. 

      Five states have earmarked five percent or less of their transportation cash for projects with a biking or walking component, with Oklahoma's 1.3 percent at the bottom, the analysis found. 

      Big increase in biike commuting since 2000

      Biking is not all about sunshine and tight shorts--it's increasingly a serious mode of transportation. The number of bike commuters has increased about 10 percent since 2011 and 60 percent since 2000, the U.S. census estimates.  

      Does it make a difference? For your carbon footprint, yes. Total emissions to make and maintain a bike and fuel its rider is about 25 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, compared to 433 grams per mile to produce, maintain, and drive a car, according to a 2011 report by the European Cyclists' Federation.

      Health benefits known

      Healthier communities have more bike lanes and sidewalks. Researchers have found that cities and states with more bikers and walkers had less obesity and lower diabetes rates.

      But drivers, at least in the United States, still get the bulk of transportation resources: For every $1 spent on transportation projects by states, about two cents goes toward biking and walking projects, according to an analysis by the Alliance for Biking & Walking.  

      "We need transportation choices and options in how we get out and about," said Christy Kwan, an outreach coordinator for Advocacy Advance. "It's important for our environment, health, and economy." 

      Brian Bienkowski is a staff writer for the Daily Climate and its sister publication, the Environmental Health News. The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service covering energy, the environment, and climate change.


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      May 3, 2014 at 2:52pm

      I count 6 people on bikes in that picture, and only 1 with a helmet. Good stuff cyclists ... idiots.


      May 5, 2014 at 8:15am

      It's ok. You just have cyclophobia. Google it!


      May 5, 2014 at 9:39am

      Wondering about potential data manipulation in this article. Federal transport money is less than a third of all government spending on transport. I would assume that federal transport in the US is somewhat like ours in that they would deal with, well, national transportation - highways, airports, and the quality control that goes with those areas. State and local spending, the latter in particular, seems the natural home of bike infrastructure.

      Considering that many American cities and in particular suburbs do away with *sidewalks* I am not holding my breath for a great deal more bike investment.

      Also, one percent of $95 billion dollars is...a lot of dollars. Sure there are plans and studies that have to be done to put the bike lanes in a place that is a good compromise for both, but at the end of the day, bike lanes (from our local example) amount to additional curbspace, painted lines, and a few potted plants here and there. It's a big deal but not a MASSIVE infrastructure.

      out at night

      May 5, 2014 at 2:03pm

      @ Um,

      Cyclists are idiots, huh?

      Gee, that's funny, because I got to work today, as I do almost every day, without paying for gas, parking, insurance or payments on an auto. I also got a wonderful dose of exercise and fresh air, had a blast and feel fucking great!

      If that makes me an idiot, what would you call someone who sits in traffic grumbling while they idle their precious gas dollars away?