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Thursday, January 30, 2014

If You Build It Cyclists Can Save You Money, If You Let Them


This article from Portland - where else? - is a bit wonky and pertains to very local cycling issues, but is worth the slog.

IN PORTLAND, righteous indignation looks a lot like NE Multnomah.

Cutting across the Lloyd District, the street features a newly revamped bike path, separated from traffic by planters and a stout layer of pale yellow paint. It's one of Portland's few "protected bike lanes," a breed planners and advocates say we'll need more of if the city is to reach its cycling ambitions.

It's also the type of thing that can make Portlanders appear torn in two. This is a city with seriously entrenched opinions about how its road projects are funded.

And so it was last week, when the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) courted controversy by taking on a notion that's been around for more than a century (seriously): That bike riders barely help pay for the very projects that benefit them.

In an infographic released Tuesday, November 12, the BTA contended cyclists actually pay well above their fair share. It's not a new claim—but, predictably, it sparked scads of online outrage, a dismissive column in the Hillsboro Argus, and curt protest by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

Lost in all that drama, though, was this: Research suggests the BTA was largely right. And local transportation wonks point out the organization missed a more pertinent point: The savings from bike-related infrastructure has the potential to far outweigh its cost....

Here are a few factoids from the article to chew on:

A Swiss researcher, Thomas Gotschi, who helpfully made Portland the subject of a 2011 study, drove that point home. He found investments of $138 million to $605 million in bike infrastructure could be leveraged to save:

•Between $388 million to $544 million in health care costs.

•$143 to $218 million in fuel

•$7 to $12 billion in human life (measured “value of statistical lives,” a common metric in transportation planning)

Read the full article.


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