Thursday, March 13, 2008

Climate Benefits from Biking and Walking

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!)

2 comments:

RyanCooper said...

From the article: "The research team designed and implemented surveys to collect travel behavior data..."

One thing they seem to have missed is arguably the most important- Why did the survey respondants use alternate transportation rather than driving?

I don't think it takes a team of researchers and a big bag of govenment money to conclude that "driving less improves the environment". A useful peice of information they could have gotten from this study was why people walk or bike rather than driving.

I support almost anything that leads to a better environment. Twenty five million dollars per city should be a nice boost to the alternative transportation infrastructure, but unless they can figure out how to convince more people to use these facilities the overall impact will continue to be minimal.

I know that effectivly marketing "bicycle riding" as a viable alternative to driving is incredibly difficult. We live in a culture where it is every American's right to drive their Hummer two miles up the road to get a couple double cheesebugers from the fast food place then come home and eat in front of the TV while watching news stories about carbon footprints, oil prices, and America's obesity epidemic. In spite of this, it will be a cold day in hell before many people consider walking to the grocery store or riding a bicycle to work.

Congradulations to anyone who read this far down my rant. I guess I'll put my soap box away and go for a bike ride now.

Pedal on,
Ryan Cooper

Anonymous said...

yeah Ryan!!...

I would just add that even though the masses.. still drive their Hummer up the road 2 miles to get their quad stacker.. before the Burger King closes.. (and they have their god given right to do that)..as the price of fuel rises.. and they begin to see the people.. riding to and from work..and school.. and to hang out downtown.. (like i see now more and more).. the little kid with the spiderman shirt in the back of seat of that Hummer (staring out the window at me as he is driven past) is going to want to ride too..someday..... and its that generation that any amount... of attention now.. has got to .. attract..