An interim report to Congress, confirmed by the US Department of Transportation, states that there are climate benefits when a community works to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian travel into its street network. The report outlines the plans for the federal Non-Motorized Pilot Program, and an evaluation process that includes challenges to implementation.
Interested readers can view the interim report here, and the final report will be published in 2011.
This report summarizes the progress and initial results of the four pilot communities' participation in the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) from its inception through May 2007. The NTPP was authorized in August 2005. Over the span of 4 years, the legislation provides $25 million in contract authority for each of the NTPP's four pilot communities (Columbia, Missouri; Marin County, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Sheboygan County, Wisconsin) "to construct ... a network of nonmotorized transportation infrastructure facilities, including sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian and bicycle trails, that connect directly with transit stations, schools, residences, businesses, recreation areas, and other community activity centers."
Already, the research team estimates that walking and bicycling for utilitarian purposes reduce driving by about 1 to 4 percent, depending on the community. Because of the large populations involved and the ongoing nature of this reduction, this seemingly modest contribution leads to significant long-term results: the total reduction in all four program communities, over the course of an entire year, is estimated to be in the range of 156.1 million miles of avoided driving.
(It will be interesting to see what the final results since I doubt any, or many, physical projects have been built yet with this funding. Keep in mind that just because the program was authorized in 2005 doesn't mean the communities got the money anytime close to that year!)