This particular November week doesn’t seem like it would be about the bike, but it is.
For several years now, planning has been under way to prepare a bike plan that could be adopted into the Wenatchee’s Comprehensive Plan, and this week is ‘show-time’ for that plan.
On Wednesday at City Hall, the Wenatchee’s planning commission will make its recommendations as to whether the bike plan should be adopted in its entirety (or in part) into the comprehensive plan. Language will also be attached to the recommendations that indicate whether the adopted plan should simply be considered a useful document to help steer the city with future bike planning or whether the city needs to get serious about implementing this particular plan.
Let me take a step backward to discuss why it’s worth worrying about the issue. Bicycling brings with it a host of benefits. It’s good for the personal health and wellness of those who do it, and it’s good for reducing public health costs — if cyclists don’t get hit by cars, that is.
Bike commuters have far less impact on roads and, in communities that have many bike commuters, reduce the amount (and cost) of road infrastructure that the city most provide to motorists. Biking also pays some green returns: Pedaling a bike is as clean a form of transportation as you’ll find and, calorie for calorie, there is no more efficient way of making the round trip trek from your home to downtown Wenatchee.
Whether the motive behind it is for health benefits, transportation, recreation or environmental ideology, bicycling is also a sizable economic engine.
In 2012, the Outdoor Industries Association reported that in the United States the outdoor industry generated an annual economic contribution of $646 billion per year. The following were the top 10 contributors, with No. 10 listed first: hunting ($23 billion), wildlife viewing ($33 billion), fishing ( $35 billion), motorcycling ($43 billion), snow sports ($53 billion), off-roading ($66 billion), trail sports ($81 billion), bicycling ($81 billion), combined water sports ($86 billion), camping ($143 billion). Bicycling is one of the heavy hitters and, as water sports is a combined category, the economic contribution of bicycling ties for second place.
Other interesting statistics: The Outdoor Foundation reports the average bike commuter will lose 13 pounds during the first year that he or she consistently rides to work.
Commute Solutions says that bike commuters save nearly a $1 per mile compared to the gas, depreciation, parking and insurance costs of driving a car.
And the Political Economy Research Institute, in a 2010 study of Baltimore, found that $1 million spent on bike projects (e.g., bike lanes and bike paths) produced twice the number of direct and indirect jobs as road projects for motorists. All of this is simply prelude to the fact that investing in a city’s bicycling infrastructure is good for individuals and good for communities.
So back to where I started, Wenatchee’s new bike plan is neither radical nor extravagant in its use of financial resources.
It’s a sensible plan created through a collaboration between the Wenatchee Valley Transportation Council, the Bike Advisory Board, local bike clubs, local bike commuters, city engineers and city planners. It reflects the wisdom derived from asking different people with different perspectives to mitigate the wide variety of problems that endanger bicyclists as they commute into, move around and ride away from downtown.
If we really care about increasing bike usage in Wenatchee, making the city safe for cyclists, making this a bike friendly community and giving our citizens more transportation options, the window of time to make that happen is now. The bike plan is a mechanism that will move us in all those directions. A lot of work has gone into creating this plan, and now a little effort from the public will ensure that the city makes best use of the plan.
How can you help? Attend the planning commission meeting (which starts at 5:30 p.m.) and speak up. Let the members of the commission hear what you think of the plan and how you want the city to proceed with it.
For my part, I’d like to see the plan adopted in its entirety, and I’d like to see the city commit to implementing this plan. Commitment here will move Wenatchee along a path that will benefit all of us in the future.
Andy Dappen is the content editor of WenatcheeOutdoors.org, a local website about all things outdoors around Central Washington. To see the bike plan, visit wvtc.org/bike-plan/