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Share the Road

Share the Road

Share the Road
Thursday, May 1, 1997

 

Let's Make America Bicycle Friendly

 

We all remember the thrill of riding our first bicycle as a child, and the new freedom it gave us. This year, more than 100 million Americans will go for a bicycle ride, and continue to enjoy the thrill as they pedal along with their families, commute to work on bicycles, or just ride around town. Each year, more Americans take to the road on bicycles than ever before. Ten million more Americans ride bicycles today than rode in 1991 -- a ten percent increase in just the past six years. Five million workers ride their bicycles to work -- and 20 million more say they would if there were adequate bicycle facilities available.

Much of this increase is due to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the landmark transportation law passed by Congress in 1991. In the 18 years before ISTEA was passed, a total of $40 million was spent on bicycle projects -- just over $2 million per year. Since ISTEA, the annual federal commitment to bicycles has increased one hundred fold. The Environmental Working Group's analysis of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) records reveals that since 1991, over one billion dollars have been spent in our communities to make bicycling more accessible and safer. Over 3,000 bicycle projects have been funded in all fifty states, and hundreds of miles of

bicycle lanes and trails have been built.

Thanks to ISTEA, the United Sates is on the verge of an explosion of bicycle ridership. A recent poll found that two out of three voters support the use of federal funds to build better bicycle facilities. Yet now, as Congress prepares to reauthorize ISTEA, this substantial progress is endangered.

Several proposals sponsored by powerful members of Congress could reduce or even eliminate ISTEA's dedicated funding for bicycle programs. As our study indicates, these proposals would halt the progress we have made towards making our communities more bicycle friendly, and prevent us from stopping hundreds of unnecessary bicycle fatalities each year.