At our Annual Meeting, Paul Kiczek compelled us with the story of Bobby Kennedy’s 50 mile walk in 1963 which inspired him to start the Freewalkers – a group advocating fitness, adventure and community by organizing epic hikes for everyone. Paul mentioned an NPR story on the 50th anniversary hike that his group undertook in honor of that original adventure. Luckily for us, Paul is located right here in New Jersey so it’s easy and extra fun for us to participate. Several folks from the WWBPA took part in a Trenton to Princeton hike on March 24th. The next event is The Great Canal Walk – Trenton to New Brunswick – on April 6th. Check out the Freewalker’s website for more details on upcoming walks as well as the history of long hikes.
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The Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recently published a letter to the US Department of Transportation recommending weakening the federal requirement for adding bicycle and pedestrian facilities to roadway projects. This recommendation is understandable, given the fierce fight for resources in today’s tight budget climate, but extremely short-sighted.
Some background: the Highway Trust Fund, established in the 1950s to finance the interstate highway system, has suffered from starvation due to flat fuel taxes (since 1997), reduced buying power of those taxes through inflation, and fewer miles driven since 2007 (i.e. reduced demand for gas) due to the economy, more fuel-efficient cars and higher gas prices. Intended as a way for motorists to pay for highways, it has been bailed out by general taxes to the tune of $8 billion in 2008, $7 billion in 2009, $19.5 billion in 2010, and is projected to be insolvent again by the end of fiscal year 2012.
However, the percentage of federal roadway money spent on bicycle and pedestrian facilities is minuscule (about 2% in FY 2010), and a sustained commitment is necessary to build our transportation network to offer a true choice of modes – walking, biking, transit and/or driving. It’s a win-win in any case: better walking and biking facilities are usually incidental to the cost of building roads or bridges, they’re healthier for the participants, plus they reduce congestion and pollution for everyone.
Consider this picture, which I took while walking the 1.5 miles from the commuter train station near Frederick, MD to pick up my car at the dealer (don’t ask). This bridge, MD 85 under I-270, appeared to be recently constructed and had a number of nice features, such as the stone work shown, and should have been built with room to walk, but wasn’t.
Please use this link to express your opinion of whether bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be required, or just considered.
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Our nation’s capital joins Paris, London and Montreal, among others, with bike-sharing programs. Dubbed Capital Bikeshare, the program has more than 1,100 bikes available at more than 110 stations in DC and Arlington. A 24-hour membership costs $5 (you can also buy 30-day and one-year memberships) and you can get a bike as often as you’d like. Like elsewhere, the first 30 minutes of each ride is free. It’s a great way to see the sights or explore a new neighborhood, use the city’s extensive trails or get to the ballpark. Just don’t forget to bring your helmet!
We hope to see government officials using the distinctive red bikes to get around and learn the joys of cycling!