Shovel Ready

Suppose you want to spend some money — call it stimulus — on projects that will 1) employ people who badly need employment, 2) give citizens real transportation options, and 3) do a lot of good things for the envionrment and public health (just to name a few). Hmmmmm… what could you build?

How about bicycle infrastructure?

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has been a Congressional champion of cycling for many years. He’s sounding the alarm at Huffington Post because some of his colleagues want to strip cycling money from the stimulus bill.

(Note: Blumenauer is specifically targeting Republicans. He’s taking a partisan perspective. But, really, there are also plenty of Democrats who “don’t get it.” So let’s cut the acrimony and get on with the hard work of saving the U.S.)

Blumenauer concludes:

I can think of no other transportation investment that provides more benefits to American communities who so desperately need: more jobs, reduced transportation costs, increased personal health, a cleaner environment, reduced carbon footprint, and greater community livability…. Investments in bike and pedestrian infrastructure will help us create jobs and build healthier more livable communities for the future — these projects are the gifts that keep on giving.

Well, yeah. But what about public transportation? What about trains and light rail? Let’s not overstate the case. What we need is an integrated and egalitarian transportation system that gives people real options, including those too young, poor, or elderly to drive. Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure certainly plays an important role. Perhaps we should be thinking of it as part of an integrated active/public transportation plan. Cycling should not be just another special interest.

Blumenauer is spot on here:

Bicycling also has immediate and direct benefits for communities that invest in bicycle paths, bike lanes, trails, and secure bicycle parking. For each $1 million invested in an FHWA-approved paved bicycle or multi-use trail, the local economy gains 65 jobs and between $50 and $100 million in local economic benefits. Some communities are already showing the results of these investments. After investing less than 1% of their total transportation budget in bicycle facilities in the past eight years, the City of Portland has seen a 144% increase in bicycle use – and the growth of a $90 million bicycle industry that has added nearly 50 new businesses in just the past two years.

Wow. You mean it’s good for business, too?

Well, of course. Give people options and they will use them. More than that: They will make something of them. Give people a safer cycling environment and they will ride bicycles. Make downtown Springfield a cycling destination and people will ride there and spend money. Create a bicycle/pedestrian beltway around Springfield incorporating the greenway system and you’ll have a safe and efficient way to get people moving to their jobs, schools, and favorite shopping.

The hardest part of this isn’t all the usual excuses you hear from politicians and bureaucrats. The hardest part is mustering the political will. Steps you can take now:

1. Sign the bicycle infrastructure petition. You can find one at your local bicycle shop. Check the sidebar for links to a bicycle shop near you.

2. Call or write your your state and federal representatives and senators. Let them know that you support bicycle projects as part of the stimulus plan.

3. Call or write the City of Springfield and the city council. Let them know that cycling is good for business, and building cycling infrastructure is good for jobs.

4. Practice the 1-mile Solution. Numbers of cyclists on the road show interest and support as well as make cycling even safer than it already is.

5. Have an idea for a cycling/active transporation project? Leave a comment. We’ll talk.

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Comments 8

  1. robert wrote:

    I have always been disappointed in Earl’s partisanship.

    He headlines the National Bike Summit again this year. Last year he spent half his speech noting how stupid republicans are. That is one way to ensure that republicans NEVER get on board with your message.

    It would be like asking for a date by saying, “I realize that you are far too stupid and slutty to want to go out with me. In fact, you have made nothing but wrong decisions for years but I was wondering if…….”

    Its a self fulfilling prophecy. I wonder if Earl does not enjoy republicans making comments like these………..

    Posted 09 Feb 2009 at 3:52 pm
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… Agreed. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. I wonder if anyone has mentioned to him that he might want to tone it down. Such a suggestion would need to come from his district. Perhaps someone with

    Posted 09 Feb 2009 at 4:13 pm
  3. Alexander wrote:

    I agree with your call for integrated systems. It’s interesting though from a policy stand-point, there can be much to be gained from a broken system.

    I assisted on a study a few years back looking at the transportation issues along the I-95 corridor in Rhode Island. I-95 is the only interstate in RI and it is also the main road between Boston and NYC (with New Haven and Providence also on this road). 7 years ago the road was beyond capacity resulting in a traffic situation that is nightmarish.

    One of the main complaints was that in RI public transit was not integrated. For example, if you fly into TFI Green, you pay cab drivers, 50-100 bucks to drive you to a bus stop or train station. 🙂 Unlike cities like SF, CA. The transit in RI is broken with miles to be crossed to get from train to bus, bus to plane, and so forth.

    Of course this broken system supports the entire taxi industry for the state and also generates a significant tax base in fare-taxes. Policy after policy has been erected over decades to entrench a public transit system that cannot be integrated.

    The cost of integration 7 years ago was enormous in routing and building. This says nothing for the taxi interest, their lobby or the parking lot interests. An integrated system would have cut into the multi-million parking monopoly as well.

    I think there are deeply entrenched policy and cultural reasons why we don’t want to fix this system and few if any have to do with “consumer choice” as advertised so often in the media.

    Posted 09 Feb 2009 at 8:13 pm
  4. robert wrote:

    Interesting point of view.

    I once read that we need to stop thinking of everything in terms of GDP.

    For example, as a society we all agreed that it was not healthy for so many people to be buying new cars so often and yet now that people are not……its a catastrophe. The bloated car industry is getting cut back to a more rational level and of course people will lose their jobs. Most people consider this a “bad thing.”

    Experts are always telling us to exercise 30 minutes per day but what if people ACTUALLY did. Many doctors would be on unemployment, pharmacies would be shutting down and pharacutical company stock would go down the toilet! We would need a bailout for medical companies! Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Depends upon who you ask.

    As long as we think about things in terms of GDP we might have the best interest of the country at heart.

    I rejoice in the car companies hurting. I hope they take a permanent 50% drop in sales regardless of how many people lose their jobs.

    And this is coming from a very free market conservative type.

    Posted 09 Feb 2009 at 11:00 pm
  5. robert wrote:

    we might NOT have the best interest of the country at heart.


    Posted 09 Feb 2009 at 11:01 pm
  6. David Hembrow wrote:

    It might be worth mentioning that the Dutch seem cycling infrastructure as being a good fiscal measure as well as all those worthy things that we tend to like (i.e. good for the environment, good for health etc.)

    Posted 10 Feb 2009 at 12:05 pm
  7. David Hembrow wrote:

    Oh, and in case you missed it, a Dutch government department recently pointed out that every 1% increase in cycle commuting saves Dutch companies 27 million Euros per year.

    That’s for a population of just 16M people. If it scales then value for a 1% increase with the US population of 300M is about 2/3rds of a billion of your US $.

    Posted 10 Feb 2009 at 12:11 pm
  8. Andy Cline wrote:

    David… Yes. I need to mention those figures.

    Posted 10 Feb 2009 at 2:41 pm