8 Reasons Biking and Walking Should be Part of the State Transportation Bill

Transportation is one of the top issues at the State Legislature this year and is already getting a lot of media attention. As it should–investing in a modern transportation system is critical for Minnesota’s economic competitiveness and quality of life.

But walking and biking have mostly been left out of that conversation so far. The Star Tribune ran a 1600-word central spread on transportation last Sunday, “Minnesota’s broken bridges, ruined roads: All agree something must be done“, without a single mention of walking or biking. Ditto for the Pioneer Press.

Governor Dayton is finalizing his budget proposal, which is sure to include a transportation bill. The Governor has spoken a lot about roads, bridges, and transit, but so far he hasn’t mentioned biking and walking.

(If you want to weigh in on the Governor’s transportation proposal, now would be the time. He is reachable via online form or at mark.dayton@state.mn.us or leave a message at 651-201-3400.)

8 Reasons Biking and Walking Should be a Strong Part of Any State Transportation Bill:

1. Biking and walking offers a great return on investment.

Transportation investments are about improving lives and communities, not just about pavement or paint. Improving walking and biking is very affordable in transportation terms and attracts people and business to our state, improves public health, reduces pollution, saves families money, and gets people to work, school, and other destinations. The $25 million investment in Bike Walk Twin Cities from 2007 to 2013 helped support a 60% increase in biking and a 14% increase in walking. This led to many quantified benefits, including fewer cars on the road, big health cost savings, and air and carbon pollution reductions.

2. Residents across the state support more funding for biking and walking.

A statewide poll by the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition in November 2014 found that 65 percent of Minnesotans support including additional funding for biking and walking as part of any state transportation funding package. Support was highest in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but a majority of people supported biking and walking funding in all parts of the state.

3. Walking and biking are a critical part of our transportation system.

Eight percent of all trips in the Minneapolis–St. Paul region are by walking and biking (see graph). That’s about 800,000 trips a day, according to the Metropolitan Council. While the numbers are lower outside the Metro (and there is no similar survey done), biking and walking are also very important to many communities for Main Streets, trails, and more across the state. There are dozens of Complete Streets policies in Greater Minnesota, from 900-person Battle Lake to 100,000-person Rochester.

Source: Metropolitan Council

4. Biking and walking safety needs investment.

From 2008 to 2013, 267 people were killed walking and biking on Minnesota streets, according to Minnesota Dept of Public Safety data. That is 11% of all traffic fatalities. And thousands more were seriously injured. That is not ok and needs investment to improve.

5. Walking and biking are growing in importance.

The percentage of trips by walking increased by 16% and biking by 13% from 2000 to 2010. During the same period, the percentage of trips driven alone was down 9%.

Source: Metropolitan Council

6. State and regional funding in biking and walking is tiny and unacceptable.

Despite being 8% of trips, only 0.2% of regional, state, and federal transportation funding is allocated to biking and walking over the next 25 years (see chart from the Met Council’s 2040 Transportation Policy Plan). That is not a typo: 0.2 percent! It’s so low, biking and walking are labeled as “other” and don’t even make up a full bike image on the infographic. That is totally unacceptable and needs to change with a state transportation bill.

7. Young people–the future of our work force and transportation demand–want transportation choices.

Source: National Household Travel Survey and USPIRG

8. Biking and walking have unmet funding needs.

While biking and walking projects are much less expensive than road, bridge, and transit projects, there are significant unmet funding needs for new sidewalks, protected bikeways, crosswalks, bike lanes, and more.  The Minneapolis 2030 Bicycle Master Plan alone is estimated at more than $200 million (for a fantastic network of bike routes) and many other cities have biking or walking plans that need funding. The State should have a role in supporting local biking and walking projects.


Cross-posted on www.mplsbike.org. Note that the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition is a member of Move MN and supports a comprehensive transportation funding bill that includes important funding for roads, transit, biking, and walking.

Ethan Fawley

About Ethan Fawley

Ethan is the Executive Director of the Our Streets Minneapolis, which works for a city where biking, walking, and rolling are easy and comfortable for everyone. Ethan lives with his wife Lesley and toddler son, Quincy, in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. He loves Minneapolis and wants to see it be better for everyone. He is a big soccer fan, including a season ticket holder of Minnesota United FC.

17 thoughts on “8 Reasons Biking and Walking Should be Part of the State Transportation Bill

  1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    9. Biking and walking investments are likely the only investments that, on the whole, provide a net positive ROI for public investment. And I’m talking “Real Return on Investment,” not the bs numbers used by the Infrastructure Cult to justify big buck roads and big buck transit projects.

    Yes, there are road projects with positive ROI (likely the projects that tame and reduce the impact of roads in urban areas). And there are transit projects with positive ROI (aBRT comes to mind). But most big-buck projects are a complete waste, especially road projects, and create negative cash flow for the public over multiple generations.

    Bike/walk investments are the only ones that have positive public ROI with near certainty.

  2. James WardenJames Warden

    Sincere question: Is the state really the appropriate funding source for bicycling and walking infrastructure? The whole purpose of urbanism is to have people-sized places — which by definition are neighborhoods and communities. Why does the state need to be involved? Wouldn’t it actually be better to have these locally funded and locally controlled? I’d love for cities to say, “Hey, we’ll foot the bill for ped/bike improvements, but we’re not giving municipal consent until you give us a plan that meshes with our community vision.” I think this article does a great job listing eight reasons biking and walking should be part of *a local transportation system* but not eight reasons they should be part of *the state transportation bill.* I’d genuinely love to hear what others think.

    1. Thomas Mercier

      There should probably be a hierarchical mix just as there is with roads. A comprehensive statewide network that is supplemented by regional and local networks. So ideally funding would also be supplied at all levels, and just because the state is the provider of the money doesn’t mean that the state has to be the provider of the facility. Many bike/ped large capital projects (e.g. grade separated crossings or long stretches of new facilities) are at least partially funded through competitive grants at the federal level but the feds don’t plan, build or operate the trails. Something similar with the state is probably not a bad solution but like you said, a more intimate knowledge of the need and how to meet it is probably better for many projects as long as the community adequately collaborates their planning with the larger region.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        I’d rather see a return of *all* transportation funding to the local level, so that infrastructure has to earn its keep. Walking/biking would look much more appealing when people understand the true cost of the alternative.

      2. James WardenJames Warden

        I’m not so sure ped/bike infrastructure is hierarchical. Pedestrian networks certainly aren’t. No one commutes by foot or runs errands by foot at a distance that requires crossing multiple city boundaries. There is one level of complexity: local.

        There’s a better argument to be made for intercity bike infrastructure, but you’re still talking networks that can be coordinated with just a handful of cities. Why do we need the state?

    2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      How can funding be managed at a more local level? The most local mechanism for collecting the needed revenue is property and business taxes. I’d guess the vast majority of road costs in Little Canada are for people who don’t live there traversing through. Should Little Canada residents have to pay for these people’s roads?

      The most equitable way to collect the needed revenue would seem to be a wheelage tax which I’m not sure we’ll see for a while. Next in line is a fuel tax on gasoline, electricity, and hydrogen. Neither of these can be easily collected at less than a county level and realistically need to be at a state level.

      I am a huge proponent of stuff being as local as possible but do we not need some federal, state, and county roadways or at least coordinated road systems?

      On the flip side I do think cities need to have much more control over the roads going through their cities so that state and county roads don’t ruin them. Hawaii 61 through downtown White Bear Lake is but one good example. The city fought hard for narrower lanes and got them. Rather than improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities though the city of White Bear Lake chose instead to install a decorative median in the excess space.

      1. Dana DeMasterDanaD

        I live a block from Snelling Ave, otherwise known as State Highway 51. It is local to me. I cross Snelling by bike and on foot to get to my children’s day care, the library, work, the grocery store, and lots of other local things. Yet, MN DOT stripped the bicycle improvements out of its upgrade of Snelling Ave north of University. Without those improvements I have to go more than a mile out of my way to take my kids to Como Zoo or go shopping at Har Mar. The state absolutely needs to be involved with bike/ped funding.

        Also, the state sets policy and interprets laws that local jurisdictions follow. The state needs to be part of the funding and policy solution so that laws and policies for the state do not conflict with local desire for more bike/ped infrastructure.

    3. Steve H

      I’m not an expert on funding or the political process, but I worked for a year in the MnDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Section:


      The above sites and tabs within those sites explain what this office does for biking and walking at the state level. Bike and pedestrian issues that would be of concern at the state level include:

      * Biking/walking on MnDOT-owned roads, which are often the main streets of small towns across Minnesota (the Bicycle System Plan is addressing this).
      * Safe Routes to School – program has state funding.
      * Technical assistance to local governments – I helped organize several of our Bikeable Communities Workshops when I was there.
      * Statewide Public Health – MDH helps fund local public health initiatives, many of which have an active living programming component.

      I don’t have time to go into more detail, but these are just a few examples.

  3. Jake Krohn

    I’m curious if the kind of arguments that Chuck puts forth against MoveMN, such as his one from earlier this month, have any effect in the various bike advocacy circles around the state. Notably the contention that any gains in bike/ped funding and infrastructure are going to be dwarfed and made irrelevant by the business as usual road projects that will come along with it.

    I’ve pushed back at various times on the BikeMN representatives who travel to our corner of the state, but I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer to this question. If you’re a MoveMN supporter, are you in it whole hog or are you allowed some skepticism?

    1. Ethan FawleyEthan Fawley Post author

      The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has chosen to evaluate Move MN based in the realities of today in a variety of perspectives (impact for bike/walk in short and long term, public opinion, political, etc.). Our Board made a unanimous determination that it would aid progress toward our mission and goals to support Move MN (and a transportation bill) as long as significant dedicated biking and walking funding stays part of the package. We would not support a transportation bill that doesn’t meaningfully include biking and walking. Move MN supports bike/walk inclusion (because a significant number of its members want it) and that is a value.

      $50 million of dedicated walk/bike funding per year (as in Senator Dibble’s proposal) would really be system-changing for biking and walking. In just Minneapolis, that would bring about $4 million a year (on average depending on project allocations). That would have tremendously positive impact for our ability to build out a protected bikeway network, address safety problems, improve access for people with disabilities, and more. That is near-term improved quality of life and is worth supporting.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        I’m curious how this will play out… Politically it now seems that increased revenues are now less than a half and half shot of passing this session, and the chance of increased revenues with meaningful bike/walk/transit investment is approaching zero.

        If there’s anything that’s more disheartening than the DFL’s stance on transportation, it’s hearing Daudt’s idea of what constitutes a “good investment.” Yikes, GOP, figure out that roads are not fiscally responsible!

        1. Ethan FawleyEthan Fawley Post author

          No way a roads-only bill gets funded with a tax increase. You need urban DFLers for that and they won’t support it without transit/bike/walk.

  4. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Good post Ethan. Here’s some more.

    Look at the costs of MNSure and particularly at the costs for healthcare ($8k / person / yr). Read a few studies on how much of our healthcare costs are due to preventable chronic diseases related to obesity and lack of activity (roughly half). Now look at how much less countries like The Netherlands, Denmark, and Finland spend (about half as much as we do). And yet they live longer and healthier lives than we do.

    The ROI of active transportation is huge and that is why companies from Quality Bicycle Products to 3M to Target are increasingly encouraging it for their employees. It’s a very real and tangible bottom line cost savings for them and improves employee lives.

  5. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Another is massively improved mobility for disabled folks (of which we have a quickly growing number). No country that I’ve seen provides safe and comfortable mobility for disabled folk better than The Netherlands. Disabled share bikeways with bicycle riders and it works exceptionally well. The paths are smooth and level, don’t have jarring curb cuts, and allow disabled folk to go wherever they desire and do so quickly and safely.

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