Infrastructure Could Include Bike and Pedestrian Paths As Well As Highways

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

Greenways are bike paths that often serve as multi-use, car-free ways to navigate a city. Right now, the U.S. network “comprises a similarly haphazard collection of park-like bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented paths,” as CityLab reports, but that could change if environmental and transportation advocates can land $10 billion for a Greenway Stimulus in the infrastructure deal being negotiated in Congress right now. The plans to build, extend, and connect greenways are already in place — they just need funding to make it happen and advocates from across the country are hoping to hitch a ride on the American Jobs Plan. From a Louisville Loop trail that would run for more than 100 miles to an extension of the trail to Florida’s Amelia Island, the funds would connect cities and regions, with the ultimate goal of building out a national network of car-free paths to travel along. 

Why This Matters: Getting people out of cars and into other modes of getting around is one of the best ways to ramp down carbon emissions in the transportation sector as well as ramp up health and fitness. Making cycling a safe and pleasant experience means prioritizing funding and infrastructure to support it, and $10 billion is a fraction of the $300 billion proposed for roads, highways, and bridges. According to East Coast Greenway Alliance Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano, now is “an opportunity for the government to say, ‘This is a national priority for the health of our country, equity, and climate, and we’re going to tackle this. We’re going to invest.’”

Greenways Already Moving Forward

While the federal money would certainly help advance a national network of bike- and pedestrian-friendly trails, some projects are already underway:

  • Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway recently broke ground and will run for 27.5 miles when complete. 
  • In New York, the Empire State Trail will run from Manhattan to the Candian border, while Manhattan itself will get a greenway that circumnavigates the island by the end of the decade

A Chance to Reclaim Car Space: Cities are emerging from the pandemic, but car traffic has been near pre-pandemic levels since last June. But it doesn’t have to be that way: driving dropped by nearly half during the early months of the pandemic, and cities around the world used that as an opening to create new space for people instead of cars. The past year and a half has “altered our view of public spaces in ways no other event could,” Outside Magazine writes, and given cities the opportunity to shake things up and reconfigure space. There are plenty of climate benefits to shifting from car infrastructure to roads designed for people and bikes: they’re cooler, since bikes don’t need six lanes of uninterrupted asphalt. They’re cleaner, without any lung-damaging air pollution. And they’re economically smart, increasing business revenue even when there’s less parking. 

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