PREDICTING THE FUTURE!
I recently had the pleasure of attending the first N.C. State Bike Summit in Raleigh. The Summit sought to bring together citizens involved in health, economics, and transportation issues in our state. The 170+ registered participants met for two days discussing each of these aspects as related to cycling and the overall health and wellbeing of the State of North Carolina.
We had the opportunity to hear from the League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke on how changes in the recently passed Federal Transportation bill will affect pedestrian and cycling funding from the federal level. The short story is that there will be less overall and less specific funding for bike/ped projects and the competition for the remaining funds will occur more at the state and local levels than at the federal level. Clarke drove home the importance of active involvement with local legislators and elected officials.
Our own Don Kostelec, bike plan designer for the Haywood County plan, presented on Health Impact studies done as part of the development of our own county wide plan. Kostelec and the Haywood Bike plan have garnered significant interest since the release of the Haywood plan in November of 2011.
Of interest to all the participants were reports on the State wide bike/ped planning that is going on as we speak. Project designers indicated that projections are that the Southern Crescent, roughly Birmingham, AL to Washington, DC along the I-85 corridor, will continue to be the largest growing urban area in the United States for the next 40 years. This urban growth area will necessitate new ways in using our existing roadways and infrastructure. According to the planners, roads built for moving goods to market in the past century will now be used in entirely new ways of moving people from place to place for work, school, and play. We will not be able to build enough new roads to keep up with the urban growth, therefore, new multi-modal forms of transportation must come into play. Cycling is one of those primary forms of alternative transportation expected to grow by leaps and bounds. Raleigh, Durham, and Cary in the Triangle area are already building new bikeways and infrastructure.
Of concern to those of us from the rural areas of the state, are fears that the preponderance of transportation monies will go to these urban areas and we will again be left out in the cold when it comes to financial resources finding their way to Western North Carolina and other rural areas. The bike/ped state planners spoke of the statistics showing poverty, obesity, and barriers to economic development. In all of those categories, our rural areas ranked higher in need than the existing urban areas.
It is critical that we citizens of the rural communities stay on top of the changing environment and work closely with our elected officials to see that we aren’t left in the dust of coming urbanization in North Carolina.
For more information, visit http://gr8smokieszeke.blogspot.com and www.bicyclehaywoodnc.org . You may also link to Zeke’s Great Smoky Mountain 2 Wheeled Adventures under Opinion on the Mountaineer’s website.