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Why America needs a Bike New Deal

Earlier this year, we introduced our vision for a Bike New Deal, a transformative plan to build a more Bicycle Friendly America for everyone based on five goals. For many of us who want better places to ride, the next question about the Bike New Deal is “when” and “how” but others may wonder “why?”  

  • 1.  Transportation contributes the most to Emissions

According to the EPA, the transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, making up 28.9% of emissions while more than 90% of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based.

Biking and walking, if enabled by safe networks, could be a significant part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector. According to the National Household Travel Survey, more than 45% of vehicle trips in the US are three miles or less, a distance that many people are willing to bike, and 21% of vehicle trips in the US are less than one mile, a distance that many people are willing to walk. The EPAestimated replacing half of car trips that are a mile or less by biking and walking would save “about $575 million in fuel costs and about 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.”

  • 2.  Traffic deaths are persistent and devastating

Deaths due to motor vehicle traffic are terrifyingly persistent. 

The last year fewer than 30,000 people died due to motor vehicles was 1945.

While there is currently a national movement to set the goal of US transportation policy as zero roadway deaths, the US is nowhere near leading the world in terms of traffic safety. Between 2000 and 2013, the US had the smallest reduction in traffic fatalities of 10 high-income countries reviewed by the CDC. The current per capita fatality rate is similar to India’s and is higher than any European Union country. The US per capita traffic fatality rate is nearly twice that of Italy– a country renowned for fast cars and chaotic traffic. 

Deaths due to motor vehicle traffic are devasting

Crashes are devasting emotionally and physically. They are also unexpected – they can happen any time and multi-car crashes can occur even if you’re a safe driver. Driving is the MOST DANGEROUS THING an average person will do an a given day. Motor vehicle traffic is the leading cause of unintentional injury causing death for people aged 5-24.

Yet our transportation policy debates often focus on issues like congestion and delay while minimizing the human toll of a transportation system that prioritizes convenience over humanity. Roadway fatalities have more than a personal impact: each death by car has a public cost of at least $156 per person per year in added taxes

  • 3.  The way forward is being fought in communities all over the United States

Each of our more than 350 member groups, 464+ Bicycle Friendly Communities, 1,226 Bicycle Friendly Businesses, and 193 Bicycle Friendly Universitiesis taking steps big and small to improve bicycling and walking – and in the process reduce the emissions of our transportation system and the toll of deaths caused by motor vehicle traffic.

A Bike New Deal is a shared vision that promotes the best of what these many people, places, and organizations are doing and empowers them to do more and do better by providing the support that is often lacking from federal and state governments. It is about recognizing the value of bicycling and walking and providing leadership in the way that only elected officials and the federal government can.

A Bike New Deal makes clear that biking and walking are not “local issues,” they are not “amenities,” in fact they are cost-effective solutions to multi-faceted problems that are life threatening to our planet. Each and every person in America could be one of the more than 30,000 people who dies on our nation’s roadways each year. It is time for a new deal for American transportation, a system based on policy created in 1955 and moderately updated since. 

It is time for a shared vision that puts people and communities first, and recognizes that “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible” means using two of the most efficient, healthy, safe, and beneficial technologies we have – biking and walking. 

We’ve proposed Five Principles for a Bike New Deal. Please let us know what you would include in your Bike New Deal or how you might add to our list so that these investments provide the most benefit to society. Tweet @BikeLeague or #BikeNewDeal or email [email protected]