Photo: Marco Mazzei“I think there’s a place for infrastructure, but what kind of infrastructure? Infrastructure to widen highways, to ease congestion for American families? Is it to build some buildings that are necessary? … But if we’re talking about beautification projects, or we’re talking about bike paths, Americans are not going to look very kindly on this.”
Those were the words of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) back in 2009. Now, of course, Boehner is speaker of the House. He is just one of many Republicans who have derided spending on bike paths over the years. To people like him, infrastructure that allows people to ride bicycles more safely is as useless as “beautification.” (Which is, in fact, not useless at all.)
Yesterday, Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, wrote on his blog about a couple of studies that might interest Boehner — that is, if the speaker is concerned about both job creation and what the American people want.
The first is a Baltimore study showing that building on-street bike lanes does indeed create jobs — twice as many jobs as road upgrades or road resurfacing.
The second is from the Centers for Disease Control, and it shows that two-thirds of adults surveyed were willing to take civic action to improve street design in their communities and make them more conducive to physical activity (you’ll find a link to the PDF here). One good way to do that, of course, is to build bike infrastructure. Other design elements put forward by the survey included continuous sidewalks, improved lighting, and crosswalks.
Here’s what LaHood had to say about the implications:
Putting the two studies together creates a powerful argument for continuing the Department of Transportation’s support for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects. Even as these investments increase mobility, they also generate economic growth. And, people are demanding them for their communities.
We’ll see if Boehner’s thinking on these matters has evolved when the 112th Congress gets down to the business of legislating.