What Happens When A Real Bike/Walk Network Gets Built?

Research Review & Lessons Learned

In August 2005, Congress conducted an experiment with bicycling and walking. This was an experiment in which $100 million was allocated to build non-motorized infrastructure in four American cities. The purpose of the experiment was to investigate the impact of significant investments in bicycling and walking infrastructure such as sidewalks, bicycle facilities, crosswalks, etc.

From 2006 through 2009, over $25 million was provided annually to each of four pilot communities. Each community used its money to implement local strategies to increase the use of non-motorized transportation.

  • Columbia, Missouri
  • Marin County, California
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Sheboygan County, Wisconsin

In 2007, and again in 2010 after many of the facilities had been constructed, the number of bicyclists and pedestrians at key locations were counted. These counts revealed that walking had increased by 22 percent and bicycling had increased by 49 percent. Surveys of the walkers and bicyclists indicated that the increase in bicycling and walking was attributable primarily to utilitarian trips, although recreational and exercise activity also increased.

Does it work to fund safe, low-stress
biking and walking infrastructure?

Walking increased by 22%

Bicycling increased by 49%

Primarily for utilitarian trips

Car traffic reduced by 3% – permanently

Recreation and exercise also increased

This happened in 3 years

The findings of this experiment estimated that the number of driving trips were reduced by 3 percent. That may not sound like a lot but because driving is such a huge part of our transportation picture, that 3% can mean big changes. Between 2007 and 2010, that small drop resulted in 1.67 million gallons of gasoline not being burned and more than 31 million pounds of carbon dioxide not generated by those trips. And because this infrastructure is permanent, those savings continue being reaped long into the future.

Unfortunately, this experiment was not able to build everything needed for a complete active transportation network in each community. With this momentum, these communities continue to build-out their networks today.

This research shows what can happen when a real bicycling and walking network starts to be realized.

Michael Williams Transportation Consultant
and Shasta Living Streets Advisory Group Member
bikepedx@gmail.com @bikepedx advisorybikelanes.com

Image and example Boulder Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network Plan