The Case for Active Transportation, by the Numbers

Snapshot_2008_10_24_11_21_59.jpgThanks to commenter Stephen for prodding us to post on the new report from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, "Active Transportation for America" (download the PDF here).

What makes the report notable are the numbers it contains. It’s jam-packed with quantifiable benefits that would result from increased investment in infrastructure that encourages and supports pedestrians and cyclists.

For instance, the report’s authors write:

  • Increasing the bicycle and pedestrian share of trips of one mile or less from its current 31 percent, to 40 percent under a Modest Scenario, or to 70 percent under a Substantial Scenario, would result in 28 billion or 49 billion reduction in miles driven, respectively.
  • Modest increases in bicycling and walking for short trips could provide enough exercise for 50 million inactive Americans to meet recommended activity levels, erasing a sizeable chunk of America’s activity deficit.
  • For the price of a single mile of a four-lane urban highway, approximately $50 million, hundreds of miles of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can be built, an investment that could complete an entire network of active transportation facilities for a mid-sized city.
  • The financial value of improved mobility, fuel savings, greenhouse gas reductions, and health care savings amounts to more than $10 billion annually under our Modest Scenario. For the Substantial Scenario, benefits would add up to more than $65 billion every year. These benefits dwarf historic spending for bicycling and walking, which was $453 million per year for 2005–2007 under SAFETEA-LU, and a mere $4.5 billion cumulative federal investment in these modes since 1992, when bicycling and walking first received documentable federal funding.
  • Larry Littlefield

    It works for me. The disadvantage of bicycle riding and walking is that it takes more time to get places.

    But if you are getting exercise in the normal course, that saves time, by substituting for other exercise or prolonging your life. The health argument is that it’s worth the time.

  • Tacony Palmyra

    I’d like to see studies that show that reduced driving = reduced drunk driving. The uncomfortable reality that most people in cities like Atlanta basically just drive home drunk after a night out at the bar or club should be part of the case we’re making… I’d wonder if there’s data to support this.

  • I’m not proud of it, but in my reckless younger years, when I lived in an area with no public transit options, I drove everywhere (because there were no other options) and drove home after drinking on a number of occasions. In NYC, not at all. I can’t provide any sort of study like mentioned above, but anecdotally, that certainly sounds right.

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