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Boehner Bikepath Blog is … Baloney, say Bicyclists

Speaker John Boehner’s weekend claim that 25% of the highway dollars are “siphoned off for non-economic projects – such as beautification and bikepaths”  came as a bit of a shock. The nation’s bicyclists must have gotten a big raise over the holidays, because last November Boehner and his buddy Eric Cantor were claiming only ten percent of highway funds were “diverted” this way.

Source: Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2012 Benchmarking Report, Alliance for Biking & Walking

Neither figure is anywhere close to the truth, of course. Boehner continues to use “bikepaths” as a whipping boy for everything that he thinks is wrong with our transportation system – he knows, and his colleagues know, that “bikepaths” get barely 1.5% of Federal transportation dollars. They also carefully avoid inconvenient facts like:

  • The 1.5% of funds that go to bicycling and walking projects compares to the 12% of trips and 14% of fatalities for which these two transportation account nationwide.
  • “Bikepaths” make up a small percentage of investments made in safer bicycling and walking infrastructure – most of the funds go to popular and cost-effective projects including sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, trails, bike parking, Safe Routes to Schools programs and a host of other safety projects that benefit all road users.
  • The Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to Schools programs are among the only programs that give local governments the opportunity to compete fairly for transportation dollars that are fiercely controlled by state highway agencies; these funds are typically over-subscribed by a factor of three or more.

Ironically, Boehner and his claims are also undone by none other than the state Departments of Transportation – for whom, or perhaps by whom, the proposed highway bill must have been written. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recently asked the Transportation Research Board to report on the job creation benefits of the small amount of stimulus funding that went to transportation infrastructure. Lo and behold, by far the most jobs per dollar spent were created by “transportation enhancement” projects, or “bikepaths”.

So if Boehner’s bill is about making good use of diminishing transportation dollars, bicycling and walking clearly ought to make the cut. They are low-cost, big impact projects that solve transportation problems as well as health, energy and environmental problems at the same time. If the bill is about creating jobs, labor-intensive, small-scale projects such as bikeways and walkways clearly fit the bill perfectly.

It’s time for Boehner to banish the bikepath-bashing bandwagon and boldly embrace the broad and brilliant benefits of bicycling.

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