Reinventing the Wheel
“There is something seriously wrong with that boy,” I thought to myself as I watched my nephew furiously pedaling his bike around and around my brother-in-law’s house in Bend, Oregon, last Christmas. Around the house and up and down the snow-covered driveway he rode for hours at a time, only occasionally leaping off to make some mechanical adjustment to his bicycle, and then jumping back on for several more laps. I decided I needed to find out more about what sport could fuel such dedication in the middle of winter and discovered the growing world of cyclocross. Although an extreme example, cyclocross shows how cycling continues to grow and diversify across the country.
May is National Bike Month and according the 2010 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, bicycling is the most popular outdoor activity among children in the United States, involving 14,652,000 children. Many environmental and urban planning advocates think that the time is also ripe for bikes to play a larger role in transportation in the U.S. Parks are an obvious place for kids to have a safe place to ride and for commuters to avoid crossing paths with traffic, but getting to the park can be a hazardous journey in itself.
NRPA’s Maggie Cooper wrote about how parks can work with planners to create more transportation alternatives, including bike paths, in our April issue, and Kellie May followed up on that in our May issue with an article about how communities are working to make their parks more accessible to residents in surrounding neighborhoods and beyond. One source of funding for projects like these is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Program, currently known as SAFETEA-LU. SAFETEA-LU funds these grants through its Transportation Enhancements, Recreational Trails, and Safe Routes to School programs using gas tax revenue. Rich Dolesh, NRPA’s Chief Public Policy Officer, says the reauthorization process for SAFETEA-LU has dragged on for years. With declining gas tax revenues and competing demands for that shrinking revenue, he fears that programs regarded as less essential may not be funded. To find out more about the current status of park and recreation-related transportation funding, see the April Advocacy Insider. Cycling advocates need to make sure that policymakers understand the great record of success of parks as transportation partners. Hopefully then this reauthorization will stop going around in circles like my nephew on his cross bike and start making some real progress.
Parks & Recreation