Talk to just about anyone under the age of 40 (or even 50) and they’ll tell you they use the Internet. What’s more, talk to anyone under the age of 30, and they’ll tell you they rarely use email, don’t own a laptop and use mobile applications. And Facebook is being replaced by Instagram and Reddit.
Technology changes, times change and people change. Today’s Millennial generation are looking to live and work in communities that incorporate walking, bicycling and open spaces — designed more for humans rather than strictly for motor vehicles moving as fast as they can — to come together as a community.
Walking and biking make up 12 percent of all the trips in the U.S. and sadly account for 14 percent of all fatal traffic crash victims on our nation’s highways, yet only receive less than 1 percent of the total federal transportation funding.
In the Cobb 2010 penny sales tax SPLOST, $278 million was budgeted for road projects. Zero was budgeted for on-street bicycling facilities. The death or injury of a person walking or riding a bicycle affects us all, especially one that could be prevented through better engineering and design by accommodating all users of the road network. And unfortunately we’ve had several high-profile deaths of bicyclists in Cobb County this year.
Almost 25 percent of trips within the U.S. are less than two miles; walking and bicycling use no gas nor cause pollution. American’s obesity rate has doubled in the last 15 years and walking or riding a bike is a great way to get a bit of healthy and family-friendly exercise.
Across the region, you’re finding parents and elected officials coming together to add bike lanes and paths so their children can choose to walk or ride their bike to school. That makes one less car on the road in the morning if the parent normally drives their child to school. Multiply that times the thousands of parents each day driving their kids back and forth to school across metro Atlanta, and that adds up to REAL dollars we’re sending to the Middle East each day to feed our fuel addiction.
In 2009, Cobb Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a Complete Streets Policy. It states, “Cobb County will implement the Complete Streets concept by considering safe access for all users to include motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users including individuals with physical disabilities and senior citizens in the planning, design, construction and operation of streets within its jurisdiction.”
It has been the government’s role at all levels for the past several decades to heavily subsidize and reallocate wealth to support motor vehicle transportation. Think bicycles shouldn’t be on the road because they don’t pay for them? Think again. We’ve been heavily subsidizing motor vehicles to use public roads for decades. Do you know where the funds come from to pay for the roads? Revenues from motor vehicle fuel taxes and other fees only account for just over 50 percent of the cost of building and maintaining roads and bridges. The remaining amount comes from property taxes, general fund allocations, bond issues, etc.
Most bicyclists I know are white-collar professionals, paying property, income and sales taxes. They drive cars and pay fuel taxes, too.
In Georgia, bicycles are defined as a vehicle, are legally protected and are able to use the publicly owned right of way on our roads — which we all own together.
Adding bicycling and walking accommodations are good for business and homeowners.
The Northwest Georgia Regional Commission has just completed an Economic Impact Study of the Silver Comet Trail. It finds property values of homes are increased by 7 percent within a ½-mile of the trail.
For every $1 spent on the Silver Comet Trail expansion, Georgians gain an estimated $4.64 in direct and indirect economic benefits. This translates to a more than 400 percent return on investment for local communities, the region and the state. Quality of life decisions, including the availability of recreational amenities like trails, are becoming ever more important factors in where people — especially the Millennial generation — choose to live and businesses choose to relocate.
Take a look at the Lower Roswell Road project between Johnson Ferry and Timber Ridge. The local neighborhoods and families mobilized and drew support to have bike lanes and the multi-purpose trail built. When completed, parents and children will be able to enjoy a nice stroll or bike ride together. Safely. When they go to sell their homes, they can proudly state they are next to the trail as an amenity for prospective homebuyers.
In the realm of transportation dollars, funding for walking and bicycling projects is “budget dust,” with a substantial ROI and myriad benefits. Having owned my own business, I know you have to anticipate changing market conditions and evolve. Times change, people change.
Let’s not be stuck with a 1980s planning and transportation mindset. Instead, let’s design our communities for human use.
Retired Army Reserve Maj. Joe Seconder, a combat veteran of Desert Storm and the Iraq War, is a sales executive with a Fortune 100 tech company, was founder of Bike Cobb and is a board member of Georgia Bikes.