AN OPEN LETTER TO:
Governor Gina Raimondo May 25, 2020
RI DEM Director Janet Coit
RI DOH Director Nicole Alexander-Scott
Dear Governor Raimondo, Director Coit, and Director Alexander-Scott,
Thank you all – for your hard work and thoughtful management of our state in these unusual times.
It’s been a long few months of juggling what’s best for our state, our health, our economy, and, most of all, our people. As we watch and participate in guiding the safest of outdoor activities, we have been proud and respectful of your leadership throughout.
As you’ve made difficult decisions, we’re grateful that you have carefully balanced the need for access to open space with the need to prioritize safe distancing. Thank you for your collective ongoing and various efforts to maintain access for people to ride bicycles and walk in the outdoors.
For our part, we have all prioritized communication regarding the necessity for safe distances and face masks while biking and walking. We will continue to use our significant reach to make these messages clear and consistent to our audiences – in our communities and across the state.
Since stay-at-home orders were put in place, there has been a documented surge in biking – locally, nationally, and globally. Whether it is because there are an estimated 70% fewer cars on the road, or for a number of other compounding factors – people want to bike and walk. We have witnessed this surge in Rhode Island – our residents have shown us that they want to ride from the city to the sea as they can nowhere else, and we believe that honoring this increase in ridership can be an important part of our re-invention in the months ahead. Already “Slow Streets” are in place in Providence, and other municipalities are following suit to ensure that we are prepared to survive and thrive statewide this summer.
As a state, we now face the dual challenge of conserving our spending and invigorating our economy. Recognizing both the challenges and the opportunities, we believe that the beautiful outdoor experience of Rhode Island will be a large part of the lower-cost, higher-return investment in the safe transition to our new and healthy future.
What we know: Studies that compare the ROI of bicycle improvements with car-specific road improvements consistently demonstrate dramatically lower-cost and higher-return from bicycle investments. Will we capture this promise as we stimulate our economy?
● In San Francisco, a 2014 study compared 1-mile of bikeway at $445,000 with 1-mile of roadway at $571,000,000. That’s less than 1:1000 investment.
● In the Outer Banks region of North Carolina, a one-time investment of $6.7 million in bicycle facilities results in an annual economic benefit of $60 million. Every year.
● A 2011 study in New Jersey found that investing in bicycle and walking-related infrastructure resulted in an 8:1 economic return.
● Recent studies along the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway show a more than ten-fold return; a $2.5 billion investment this decade could turn into over $25 billion in benefits as we complete the route for the 450 communities we connect from Maine to Florida.
● Research from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) found that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure generates 50% more jobs per dollar invested than highways and other projects.
What does this mean for Rhode Island? We are in the midst of a statewide survey “Biking in the Time of Coronavirus” to collect and quantify specifics of people’s behaviors and wishes so we can accurately inform you about integrating bicycle planning into our statewide economic recovery.
Highlighting just one example of infrastructure, our survey responses to-date indicate that 70% of respondents are riding more often, and 70% would ride more often if there were more off-street bike paths. Greenway and trail infrastructure investment has the highest return for our economy in terms of jobs and for our communities in terms of health and wellness, environmental sustainability, zero-emission transportation options, and economic growth.
We would like to share with you all we know about RI ridership, and the comparative costs and benefits of lower-cost, high-return investment in bicycle and pedestrian accommodation, and are committed to supporting you in integrating bicycle planning into our statewide recovery.
Please know you have our respect, our gratitude, and our partnership in the best interest of our beautiful and bikeable state. We are here to help.
With best wishes,
Paths to Progress Coalition Members
Bike Newport, Bari Freeman and Chris Martin
Bike Tiverton, Mary Bandura
Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, Robert Billington
East Coast Greenway, Kristine Keeney
Friends of the William C. O’Neill South County Bike Path, David and Rosemary Smith
Grow Smart Rhode Island, John Flaherty and CJ Opperthauser
Providence Streets Coalition, Liza Burkin
Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition, Kathleen Gannon and Betty Bourret
Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Alicia Lehrer and Lisa Aurecchia
Advocates from Charlestown, Sheryl Drude and Faith LaBossiere
Advocate from Providence, Barry Schiller