Thursday, November 13, 2008

Open Letter to Congress: Active Transportation

Recently I had written a post regarding "Active Transportation" which is essentially bicycling and walking. I mentioned that I had skimmed through the report and gotten the basics. Well now I've read the whole thing, from front to back. Not surprisingly the Rails to Trails Active Transportation report gives a full and complete justification for a greater piece of the federal pie going toward bicycling and walking infrastructure. What follows is my open letter to congress, urging for serious consideration of the facts in this report, and that there be swift and decisive action taken...

Congress of the United States of America,

The Active Transportation Report (from here on to be referred to as ATR) from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was recently presented to Representative James Oberstar in mid-October. The ATR gives a very simple solution to a number of dire problems that face America today. The ATR makes the assertion that by motivating more Americans to walk or ride bikes for a number of their short trips and errands, we could lower our carbon footprint, reduce our dependence on oil, decrease the rate of obesity and obesity related health risks and alleviate some of the congestion that clogs are strained roads and highways

A large percentage of the trips taken by Americans in their cars are less than five miles. These are trips to the local grocery store, or to the gym, or to work. Many Americans drive for these short trips because infrastructure that supports bicycling or walking simply doesn't exist, making bicycling or walking unsafe. Increases in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure have been implemented in a number of metropolitan areas and have caused significant increases in foot and bicycle traffic. This traffic is good for the population, good for the environment, and good for the economy.

Global Warming is a very real, very prevalent threat. Our dependence on oil and coal, both of which are extremely dirty, have caused environmental damage on a global scale, damage that we will leave to our children's children, and most likely their children as well. We need multiple solutions to this growing threat, and we need those solutions now. Helping more Americans to get out of their cars by providing realistic and safe alternatives to driving is a step in the right direction. It's not the silver bullet that will lower the global temperature or clean up our dirty atmosphere, but Active Transportation is a significant piece of the puzzle.

Our dependence on foreign oil, and on oil in general has been a highlight of political debate lately. We've seen oil prices fluctuate wildly over the past year, causing an unbelievable rise in gas prices which crippled many Americans. Additionally, it is this expensive, dirty fuel that has been a major culprit in global warming. Bicycling and walking are modes of transportation that use no oil and gas, and have nominal associative costs when compared to driving a car. Convincing Americans that riding or walking for short trips is feesible will help them lower their fuel consumption, and will significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The ATR further shows that by assigning a fraction of the Federal infrastructure budget to Active Transportation cities and municipalities would be able to create miles of walking and bicycling infrastructure for the cost of mere feet of automotive infrastructure.

Many Americans find their days and nights consumed with a variety of responsibilities, and often don't have time outside of work and family for fitness or activity. Because of busy schedules and a lack of feasible Active Transportation options caused by auto-centric transportation infrastructure many Americans find themselves struggling with obesity and obesity related diseases. The CDC recommends a minimum 30 minutes of light activity a day. A 5 mile bicycle trip, or a 2 mile walk would give a person that 30 minutes a day. When Americans choose to walk or ride their bike to do basic errands, or to commute to work, there isn't as great a need to squeeze in costly and time consuming trips to the gym.

The ATR is not proposing that we discontinue spending on automotive infrastructure as it would be foolish to assume that America can continue to grow and progress without the automobile. The ATR is seeking though to offer real and feasible infrastructure that would increase Active Transportation, a solution to offset the pressure on our streets and highways. By reducing the number of short trips taken by car, we reduce the total number of cars on the road per hour per day significantly. This will decrease the strain on infrastructure, increasing it's overall lifespan. Additionally, bike lanes and walkways cost a fraction of roads and highways, and are more cost effective per taxpayer. Bike lanes and walkways also increase property value and drive traffic to local business that are within the path's reach. Americans will always have needs that require a car, but we can very easily reduce the number of those needs by offering safe and available alternatives to driving.

I urge you to speak with members of Congress who have championed this cause, and to obtain a copy of the report. I hope that the facts outlined therein will convince you of the need, and the solution that Active Transportation offers. We are at a crossroads in America, please help us make the right turn.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Corey Keizer

You can view the report for yourself at There is a link for the PDF in the right hand corner of the page.


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