Many municipalities are moving towards building crosswalks, bike lanes, sidewalks and greenways. However, there is frequently pushback against funding these projects. I’ve seen it in many communities, including my own. Most people drive. Most people haven’t been on the greenway. Most don’t walk or bike to get to their job or to the store. So, understandably, many don’t see walkability and bikeability as top priorities for their city.
We hear the arguments about quality of life frequently, and they are good arguments. Adding greenways, bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks to a city is good for citizen health, morale, and property values. But these infrastructure projects are more than just nice – they are imperative.
It seems like every week we read a story about a pedestrian dying after being hit by a vehicle. We’ve read quite a few of these recently in my hometown of Greenville. We have been making slow progress on walking and biking infrastructure projects, but too many of our leaders don’t make it a top priority. We need to realize that for some people, this is life or death. It should not be so dangerous to walk from one place to another. It shouldn’t be so hard to find a place where you can safely cross. You shouldn’t have to make a thirty-five minute detour down the road just to make a thirty-five foot trip across the street. You should be able to use your feet without risking your life.
This is also a matter of economic opportunity. People don’t just bike and walk for the exercise. Sometimes they walk to get to work or to the store. You shouldn’t have to buy a car in order to survive. Some people can’t afford one and not everyone has someone who can give them a lift. If we believe that everyone should have the chance to succeed, we need to provide them with the infrastructure to do so. We need for the young man who just had his car repossessed to be able to get to his job so he can pay back his debts. We need the elderly woman who no longer has a license to be able to go out and get some milk. When we invest in these projects we open up opportunities to those who have less and who are struggling.
There are many reasons to invest in crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways, but sometimes we forget how important they are to the wellbeing of a city. This year, when municipal candidates ask you for your vote, ask them about their commitment to these projects.