Poor areas in the slow lane when it comes to biking
ATLANTA ‚?? Like other cities, Atlanta is seeing an explosive interest
The city will soon launch its first bike share program. In April, the
first of four bike-themed street festivals this year is expected to
draw tens of thousands to the historic West End. Mayor Kasim Reed aims
to double the number of bicycle-to-work commuters by 2016. And the
state Department of Transportation recently got in on the act, adding
protected bicycle lanes along Ponce de Leon Avenue.
But the biking craze hasn't caught on so much in some neighborhoods,
particularly poor communities that lack safe streets for biking and
walking. A similar pattern exists in cities around the nation: A study
last year by the League of American Bicyclists and the Sierra Club
found that, while bike commuting rose 61% from 2000-2012, many
under-served areas lack a safe infrastructure for biking.
Consequently, the study found that fatality rates for African American
and Hispanic bicyclists were 30% and 23% higher, respectively, than
those of white bikers.
Now, Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that takes a tiny step
toward changing that. The bill would provide communities with low-cost
financing for projects meant to make streets and sidewalks safer for
all users; it would direct funding specifically for low-income
The bill, introduced by Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, does
not require any new additional funding but sets aside $11 million from
the $1 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation
Act (TIFIA) loan program already funded in the federal transportation
"I think the chances (for the bill passing) are very good because
there's no new money," Sires says."I think it's a good way of funding
it. I've heard from a couple of mayors in Hudson County here, thanking
me for putting this in, and from other mayors as well."
The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure
Financing Act of 2014 creates a low-interest, long-term loan program
that communities around the USA can tap for small-scale biking and
walking projects; It requires that 25% of the funds be spent in
The bill's 10 co-sponsors include Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana
Democrat, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
both Florida Republicans.
"It will add another tool to help communities that want to do
something to encourage biking, especially in communities that need it
most," says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American
Bicyclists. "These are communities where transportation costs are
typically 30% or more of household budgets and good transportation
options are limited."
He concedes that it's a small amount of seed money but says, "If it
were wildly oversubscribed and popular. that would certainly make the
case for a greater amount in the future."
Some local organizations already are working to improve biking equity.
Among those efforts:
‚?ĘMulticultural Communities for Mobility, which works for safe,
alternative transportation access in under-served communities of color
in Los Angeles
‚?ĘCommunity Cycling Center, founded in Portland, Ore., in 1994 to
broaden access to biking.
‚?ĘThe Biking Public Project, which reaches out to under-represented
bicyclists around New York City.
TIFIA encourages public-private partnerships by offering low-cost
credit assistance to large transportation projects, but its $50
million minimum project cost requirement excludes small, stand-alone
bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects, Clarke says. The new
bill lowers the minimum eligible project cost to $2 million.
Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition,
says there are many communities around the city that could potentially
apply for low-cost loans for small projects to improve biking safety.
"There are a lot of people who want to ride a bike in Atlanta, but
they're concerned about safety," she says.
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
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