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New Report: Paying for Trails, Lanes, Sidewalks

This post originally appeared on the Advocacy Advance website.

As part of the Advocacy Advance partnership between the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking we travel around the country and talk to people about how to fund bicycling and walking projects. We get to see what’s happening all over and pick up on the exciting trends and common challenges. Sometimes the challenges are technical in nature; just as often, they are political.

We often heard people say: “If my community builds this trail/ protected bikeway/ sidewalk, even if we use federal funds, we will have to foot the bill for maintenance – and we can’t afford it.” For example, one advocate in a large rural western state explained the dilemma:

“What we’re running into and hearing is that Parks Departments are becoming resistant to more urban paths being built because they are then expected to maintain them with no additional funding. Parks Departments are becoming strapped. How can we build a case for more facilities when there’s no money to maintain them? Our Department of Transportation will build separate paths but then sign agreements with counties or communities that will maintain them. It’s a really tough sell because counties don’t want that responsibility so they don’t want them built.”

Having heard this several times, we decided to find out how other communities fund the on-going maintenance of their bicycling and walking facilities. We contacted planners and advocates in different communities to ask not just about trails, but also sidewalks and on-road bicycle facilities, like protected bikeways.

The response we heard from communities who are overcoming this challenge was remarkably consistent across community size, context, and project type: We build and maintain our bicycling and walking facilities because they are a priority for our community. 

In Columbus, Ohio, trail plowing equipment is used to maintain several Greenway systems. Photo courtesy of Keith Mayton/ The Columbus Dispatch.

How Communities Are Paying to Maintain Trails, Bike Lanes, and Sidewalks

Our new report, “How Communities Are Paying to Maintain Trails, Bike Lanes, and Sidewalks” (PDF), addresses both the technical and political challenges. It examines agency maintenance policies and procedures for bike/ped maintenance, and it provides several examples of communities who’ve successfully made these facilities a sufficient priority to overcome the challenge of paying for maintenance. We share examples related to sidewalks, trails, and protected bikeways.

Read the full report for:

  • Madison, WI’s detailed winter maintenance policies
  • How the Miami Valley, OH, Metropolitan Planning Organization uses an economic impact study showing an annual $15 million economic impact of the trail system, which cost a total of $50 million over 30 years, to justify the on-gong maintenance cost
  • A list of state and federal funding sources used to pay for maintenance of recreational trails
  • How Salt Lake City, UT, and Syracuse, NY handle winter maintenance of their protected bikeways
  • How a local elected official and bicycling advocates in Washington, DC, organized to get a protected bikeway repaved (before the rest of the street)
  • How Cincinnati, OH, Long Beach, CA, and Arlington, TX maintain their bike lanes
  • Issues involved in sidewalk maintenance
  • How Los Angeles and Atlanta and handling sidewalk maintenance differently
  • Liability and ADA issues and reasons to do maintenance


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