If you think bicycling and walking are only for big cities, you are only getting part of the story. A report released today by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, “Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers“, shows that people walk and bike more in rural areas than people usually think. ”This report demonstrates that, in fact, rates for walking and bicycling in rural areas are close to, and sometimes higher than, the national averages,” says Tracy Hadden Loh, RTC’s research manager and co-author of the report.
Rural areas benefit from significant federal investment in Active Transportation
Federal investment in biking and walking benefits rural areas as much or more than urban centers, according to the report. Rural areas receive almost twice as much funding per capita as urban areas from the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program.
The best bargain in the federal budget
Just like in urban areas, investments in walking and biking are remarkably cost-effective. “Because active transportation facilities cost a tiny fraction of roadways, and because there is pent-up demand due to past failures to build safe and convenient bicycling and walking networks, active transportation investments offer taxpayers a far greater return on their money,” the report says. “Additionally, these projects create more good jobs per dollar than large highway projects, and the money stays closer to home in small, local businesses. And when you consider that more Americans biking and walking means less spent on health care to counteract effects of the obesity crisis (the federal government pays 30 percent of all health care costs) and less of our money flowing out of the country to pay for foreign oil, active transportation adds up to the best bargain in our federal budget.”
The need to make the case
This research comes at an important time as bicycling and walking advocates are making the case to Members of Congress that investments in active transportation are critical and beneficial for all Americans. The utility and benefits are not limited to any one geographic area or segment of the population.
To find fatality, obesity, and bicycle network information, including Enhancements and Safe Routes to School projects, for your area and Congressional District, check out this interactive map (click and scroll down).
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.