Your Active Transportation Update — Walking and Wheeling Midsummer

Source: WalkWorks | PA Department of Health | Pennsylvania Downtown Center

Funding Update: Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program

Maybe the Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program doesn’t feel like exactly the right fit. In that case, you might look into the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program. This is another new program coming out of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As the title says, this one focuses on communities that have been divided historically and need assistance to knit their transportation networks back together. This could mean communities divided by highways, airports, rivers/canals, rail lines, or other large industrial uses, particularly those with a linear character that interrupted once-continuous neighborhood or community fabric.

Unlike the SS4A, the Notice of Funding Opportunity for this grant has not yet been released, though it is expected soon. You can look for more info, including a pre-recorded webinar introducing the program at the link below. You can also sign up to be notified when there are updates, like the NOFO. Interestingly, while facility owners are the only ones that can apply for implementation funds, municipalities, counties, and non-profits can all apply for planning funds.

Equity Spotlight: Transportation Policy Recs for Rural Areas

Rural communities need better transportation policy. The priority areas for the State Physical Activity and Nutrition program includes both rural counties and often core urban environmental justice areas. Sometimes people don’t think to include rurality in discussions of equity, but the issue of zipcodes being destiny is definitely also relevant in rural places. One of the ways this shows up most emphatically is in the lack of transportation options that work for everyone. Check out a report from 2021 on the subject from Third Way at the button below. In addition, this article helps to highlight the urgency of the need for more alternatives to the car default in rural areas.

Regional Event Report Back: Road Holiday a Resounding Success

The CSVT (Central Susquehanna Valley Throughway) opening preview for people walking and biking that we mentioned in our last issue was a blow-out success, attracting around 6,000 people even on a super hot day. Waits to get into the parking area apparently stretched up to an hour early on and the crowds stayed on hand throughout the day. PennDOT had been receiving requests to offer something of the sort for some time and were gracious enough to follow up.

Interest was high. The weather cooperated. And the scenery was superb. In addition, PennDOT employees from District 3-0 based in Montoursville set up an information tent with material samples, maps, and aerials to help orient people to the project (of which this is just the first half) and learn about the design features and techniques visible on the bridge, including a two-ply epoxy-coated fine aggregate coating to help preserve the bridge deck. That system had been featured in previous Innovation Days presentations.

Policy: Philly Promoting Mode Shift with Commuter Benefits

Philadelphia is leading the way on enlightened employee benefits supporting mode shift, i.e. incentivizing using other more energy efficient, economical, space-saving, and air quality-improving ways of getting to work than driving a private car.

It is not uncommon for employers to provide free parking or to cover some commuting costs for drivers, but making sure that people opting to use different modes are also supported may be a new concept for some. “The bill would enable employers to provide commuter benefits in one of two ways. The first would utilize a pre-tax payroll deduction of expected commuting costs, which could be separated from an employer’s regular paycheck to be used exclusively for transit. Another would be an employer-paid benefit, where companies supply workers with pre-loaded SEPTA Key Cards for commuting.”

Conference Report: Much Cycling and Walking Fun Was Had By All

Last issue we mentioned the PA Downtown Center Conference was coming up. It is in fact happening right now in Harrisburg! The 3-day event is taking full advantage of the location and has featured multiple walking tours in the city, including looks at the riverfront, the City Beautiful history, current revitalization work, and bike/ped infrastructure. There was also a group that rode the Capital Greenbelt on Sunday afternoon (luckily before deluge). That included a mix of local guides, experienced riders, and newbies, as well as people on a range of bike types. The e-bikes made a very positive impression. The Recycle Bicycle operation in the Alison Hill neighborhood is also making an appearance. Some of the photos featured in this issue are from the bike ride (check out the header for a shot of the group at the MLK Memorial Garden along the Greenbelt).

In addition to the mobile activities, there have also been multiple breakout sessions and presentations on key topics, including Designing for Distance, Benefits of Active Transportation (Even for People Who Hate the Whole Idea), tactical urbanism, and Natural Asset-Based Economic Development (like trails). Consider joining us next year — in a yet-to-be disclosed location.

Survey Says: Drop in Physical Activity and Cycling Among Kids

There have been some troubling trends in physical activity and active transportation in kids in recent years. One study out of the UK found that the trend of physical activity participation dropping during COVID lockdowns did not subsequently bounce back as we moved on to other mitigation methods.

And in a study posing similar challenges to those of us working to get more people active and in motion under their own power, another recent US study identified a huge drop in kids’ cycling since 2001. Those researchers found this countervailing trend belied the overall increase in cycling over the same interval. In other words, the fact that more adults took up cycling masked the drop in kids’ participation. But cycling is often a habit, skill, or predilection picked up in childhood, so this is a trend to watch.

What’s in a Word? Vehicular Cycling

We’ve warned you that we’re just getting started with the definitions. There are so many still to do, it’s almost impossible to identify a reasonable order to tackle them in. We have discarded alphabetical as meaninglessly arbitrary, though we promise the long-term version of the lexicon will be alphabetized!

This issue, we wanted to alert people to the concept of Vehicular Cycling. This is the idea that bicycles are vehicles and they should wherever possible take part in the “regular” flow of motor vehicle traffic. It has a certain gritty, X-games appeal, especially among the young, strong, and fearless. These are that relatively small subset of the cycling community who will ride pretty much anywhere. They have tended, for the past several decades to also advocate against any separated facilities, for fear of being consigned there for good, prohibited from accessing the roads. While their commitment to the critical importance of access and networks is commendable, they have unfortunately been a barrier to expanding the accessibility of cycling for those with a less road-warrior-esque mentality.

Wikipedia has an extensive write-up on the subject, including reference to its foremost proponents and evolution over the past 4 decades. And if you want more on the subject straight from the horse’s mouth, there is a blog entitled Bicycling Life, A Web-Site for Everyday Cyclists (not to be confused with the more inclusive Active Routes to Everyday Destinations from the CDC) that expounds on it. Many people who were former adherents are now all-in on broader inclusion though, so no worries!