Last night city staff gave a presentation to the Common Council on the Transportation Improvement Plan of 2012-2017. The plan includes scores of capital projects, including renovations to streets and sidewalks. Dozens of the renovations call for the addition of bike lanes to existing roads, as well as the construction of paths for bikes and pedestrians.
The city will is scheduled to spend at least $9.6 million on projects dedicated specifically to pedestrian and biking in 2012. (Tens of millions of dollars will also be spent on roads projects that include biking renovations, however, I don't know from looking at the charts how much of that spending is due to the bike lanes.)
Unsurprisingly, none of that money comes from the state. About $2 million comes from federal grants, and the rest comes from city.
In fact, the little money the state does invest to improve biking infrastructure took a big hit last night when the Joint Finance Committee voted to eliminate the $2.5 million of the state transportation fund dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian grants. The state will still hand out at least $2.7 million of federal grants to localities for biking and walking, but it will not use any money collected from gas taxes to fund bicyclists.
Makes enough sense to the average Republican. The contempt for bicyclists in some quarters of the political spectrum defies logic.
In general, spurning investment in bike lanes and such is short-sighted. The fewer alternatives to driving that exist in communities around the state, the more pressure there is on the state to fund constant road reconstruction. The fewer two ton vehicles we have on the road, the less frequently we will have to repair them.
Bike lanes also reduce congestion, not only by reducing the number of cars on the road, but by segregating the cars from the bikes. You'd think anybody who has ever had the horrible experience of being stuck behind a biker going 10 mph would understand the need for a nonviolent way to get the son of a gun off the road. Shouting "Move Over Lance!" hardly does the trick.
It's in the state's interest to promote biking in communities around the state. Reducing obesity and making the people of Wisconsin more beautiful is but one positive byproduct of a vibrant biking culture. Getting drivers off the road, especially younger ones, such as high school students, makes for less traffic, less car crashes and less money spent on repairing roads.
The only entities it hurts are the state transportation department, which is largely funded through gas taxes, and local gas stations. Will less gas taxes mean less revenue for the state? Yes, but as Gov. Walker made abundantly clear on the campaign trail, that revenue goes into a segregated fund that should under no circumstance be used for anything besides transportation. An illogical concept, I think, but it apparently makes sense to voters.
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