The Case for a Cycling City
Updated: Sep 14, 2019
The city of Vancouver, BC, is radically remaking its transportation system. To combat climate change and improve livability, Vancouver has set a goal of 2/3rds of trips being made by walking, biking, or transit—and is making rapid progress toward achieving this ambitious goal.
Impressively, Vancouver has doubled its share of bicycle commuters in just the last five years, from 6% to 12%. Vancouver’s strategy is simple: they're building "AAA" bike facilities that feel safe and comfortable for riders of all ages and abilities. Basically, if a parent would feel comfortable riding a bike route with her 8-year-old daughter, it's AAA.
Vancouver investing to make cycling accessible to all residents—not just the young, confident, and fit.
If Bozeman adopted a similar approach, we could boost our cycling commute share from 5% (current) to 10% by 2025. We can, and should. Here’s why:
Building a more bikeable city isn’t just about making things better for cyclists. It’s about building a better transportation system for everyone. The idea is that everyone who wants to ride a bike to get to work (or school, or the park, or the grocery store) should have the option to do so. When someone switches from driving to biking to work, convert greenhouse gas emissions into an opportunity for healthy exercise and to enjoy the beautiful community in which we live. This benefits not just the individual, but the community through lower taxes, less traffic congestion, and less pollution.
Lower Taxes. An “urban arterial” road costs an estimated $5m per mile to build. The city’s proposed project to reconstruct one mile of Kagy Boulevard from 19th Avenue to Willson Avenue is projected to cost $15m. To be clear, gas taxes only make up about 15% of the city’s total transportation infrastructure budget—the rest comes from property taxes (like the Arterials and Collectors district) and developer impact fees. Mile for mile travelled, bike travel is dramatically cheaper for the city to provide. For a city that’s growing at 3%, if we could accommodate 1 – 2% of this growth in the needs for our transportation system by enabling people to switch to biking, carpooling, or taking the bus, the tax bill for growth is going to be a whole lot lower.
Community Health. Active modes of transportation provide healthy exercise, which supports the health of the community overall. Active modes also results in less air pollution (including CO2, carbon monoxide, fine dust particles, nitrogen oxides, and unburnt hydrocarbons). These pollutants lead to respiratory health problems, wash into our rivers and streams when it rains, and cause smog.
Reduced Traffic Congestion. In terms of physical space in our city dedicated to transportation, you can accommodate approximately 18 bikes in the same space occupied by a car or truck. Here’s an image that shows the same number of people being moved by different modes:
We only have so much space available (and creating more space is tremendously expensive). When an individual chooses to ride a bike rather than drive, it creates more space on the roads for other drivers, helping everyone get where they’re going without being stuck in traffic congestion.
Climate Change. Transportation recently surpassed coal-fired power generation as the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Here in Bozeman, transportation is the only sector where greenhouse gas emissions is growing on a per-capita basis.
Image Source: City of Bozeman Sustainability Office
If we can make Bozeman a more bicycling friendly community, more people will choose to cycle. When more people choose to bike rather than to drive, it improves the health of the community overall, results in lower taxes for roads and less traffic congestion, and is an essential step for Bozeman to reduce its carbon footprint.
Coming up next: where the rubber meets the road—actually building a bike friendly community!