The Safe Routes to School National Partnership recently released a report that criticizes North Carolina’s use of federal money allocated for walking and bike trails across the state.
The Safe Routes Partnership describes itself as a “nonprofit organization that improves the quality of life for kids and communities by promoting active, healthy lifestyles and safe infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking. We advance policy change; catalyze support for safe, active and healthy communities with a network of more than 700 partner organizations.”
In the report, Safe Routes states that “the adoption of North Carolina’s Complete Streets policy in 2009 was championed as a new era for the Department of Transportation, as the agency promised to embark on more focused consideration of the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists in all of its investments.
“However, in 2013,” the report continues, “North Carolina shifted gears.”
According to the article, the passing of the Strategic Transportation Investments law implies that North Carolina “considers motorized transportation to be its primary transportation priority. This law prevents any state dollars from funding projects that are solely to improve conditions for bicycling and walking.”
Though the organization has its complaints against the NCDOT, the article mentions a few cities around the state as shining stars of multimodal transportation, including one close to home. “In Western North Carolina, the city of Brevard has transformed its community through investments in bicycling and walking and is seeing direct benefits through increased tourism and economic development,” writes the author of the report. “Brevard was one of the first recipients of North Carolina’s Safe Routes to School funding initiatives and used the program to construct the Gallimore Road multi-use path in 2008. The path has led to an increase in bicycling and walking to school as more than 60 percent of Brevard Elementary students now arrive via active modes.
More from Safe Routes to School:
In September 2014, Governor Pat McCrory unveiled a new vision for transportation in North Carolina, Vision25, which offered a glimmer of hope for improved conditions for walking and bicycling. It states that “transportation infrastructure can’t be improved with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach” and that North Carolina must “expand bicycle and pedestrian routes” because it is part of “what people look for when making the decision where to move or where to relocate a business.”
Unfortunately, the state has a long way to go to achieve Governor McCrory’s vision. Pedestrians and bicyclists are dying at a rate of one person every 46 hours in North Carolina, and the state sits on a stockpile of more than $14.9 million in unspent Safe Routes to School funding meant to make it safe for children to walk and bicycle to and from school.
As of September 2014, NCDOT had obligated only 52 percent of its federal Safe Routes to School funds ($15.9 million of $30.7 million), the third worst rate among all southern states. Only Louisiana (47 percent) and Tennessee (51 percent) rank worse than North Carolina while Alabama, Florida and Georgia have obligated more than 90 percent of their allocation. Neighboring Virginia is dramatically outpacing North Carolina with 87 percent of its funds obligated.
Click here for the entire report.