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The 700 Club

Biking to a Healthier Economy and You

Friday is National Bike to Work Day. Every year, more commuters turn out on bikes for the event than the year before.

Transcript

riday is National Bike to Work Day. Every year, more commuters turn out on bikes for the event than the year before. Online Bible. Read through the Bible in a Year.Ad Feedback But these days, biking is not just about health or saving gas money. It's become one part of a nationwide effort to break gridlock, make cities more livable, reduce pollution and even stimulate the economy. New York City is a metropolitan area famous for horrendous traffic congestion. Probably most drivers, stuck crawling along the jammed streets, think there's little can be done about it. But the Big Apple is making changes. In fact, it's making award-winning changes. Cycling Up 35 Percent in New York City This year, New York became the first American city ever to win the International Award for Sustainable Transport. Andy Darrell, Environmental Defense Fund vice president, told CBN News why: "They've converted about 50 acres to public space," Darrell said. "They've built about 200 new miles of bike lanes, so cycling is up 35 percent." "And they're taking lanes of car traffic away from the streets and turning them into dedicated bus lanes," he added. "And that improves the travel speed of buses by about 20 to 25 percent." Darrell walked us around a wide, spacious plaza cut right out of the road at 23rd and Broadway, an area that used to be nothing but thousands of cars and trucks crawling their way down Broadway or trying to cross it. Now dozens of New Yorkers and tourists lounged around, chatting at tables, reading, enjoying their morning coffee. "This used to be one of the most congested, crowded plazas in New York City," Darrell explained. "Now you have dedicated bike lanes over against the sidewalks that are painted bright green so that traffic stays out of them. You have lanes of traffic here that have been turned into a public plaza. You can come out and have a cup of coffee in the morning in a public space that used to be a traffic jam." Pedaling Away Pollution New York has also made major strides in making the city bike-friendly, which is important because the more drivers who become bikers, the less congestion, noise, and pollution there is. "Right now, the air pollution that comes out of traffic accounts for about 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in New York City, and about 70 percent of the added air cancer risk in the air that we're breathing right now," Darrell said. Biking battles all that and more. "It helps us maintain our weight, protect the planet and have fun at the same time," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. Blumenauer heads up the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who love to ride their bikes in Washington D.C. He said speed is one of the reasons. "I can get from the White House to Capitol Hill faster than my colleagues who are dealing with traffic," the Portland congressman said. Eight Percent of Portlanders Bike to Work Cities that have made major investments in such things as bike paths and bike lanes, like New York City and Blumenauer's Portland, see major jumps in the percentage of daily bike-commuters. "It is still less than two percent nationally," Blumenauer said. "But in Portland we have raised that percentage to about eight percent." These investments are leading to innovations that supporters say could bring great relief to America's commuting nightmares. The Environmental Defense Fund highlighted some of these innovative ideas at a Washington gathering where CBN News met up with Blumenauer. One such innovation is a bus system in Prince William County, Va., where buses can veer as much as three-quarters of a mile off their regular route to pick up riders. Another is letting buses speed along on the shoulder lanes in Minneapolis, Minn., zipping past all the stalled rush-hour traffic. Yet another is the free shuttle buses that speed people around downtown Orlando, Fla. The conference also highlighted Bikestations that provide cyclists a safe place to park, shower, get repairs, rent bikes, and connect to public transit. The Bikestation CEO Andrea White-Kjoss said Columbus, Ohio put $25 million into such projects as Bikestations and saw big changes in just one year. She said that in that year, Columbus "More than doubled the bicycle riders and reduced auto ridership by 15 percent." The (Bike) Path to Stimulating the Economy Blumenauer told CBN News bike lanes and bike and pedestrian paths are so popular with the public, they have become the favorite projects of congressmen for funding. "In the last transportation bill, we put four billion dollars for bike paths, pedestrian routes and trails," he said. "And they're the most popular, the most requested by members of Congress." The congressman also pointed out such projects are about the fastest, most efficient use of stimulus dollars. "They are actually very job intensive. You put more people to work on a million dollars of bike path than you do on a traditional road project," Blumenauer said. "We can have a groundbreaking to get it started and a ribbon-cutting to celebrate that it's open in less than a year. Try doing that on a typical road project." Bicycling advocates say if people could even move from cars to bikes for just their shortest trips, that would make a major difference, because cars do their most polluting in the first minutes they're turned on. "Forty percent of the (vehicle) trips are two miles or less." Blumenauer explained. "About 25 percent of them are one mile or less. These are the dirtiest trips. It's when the engines are polluting the most." And as Darrell says of his New York City, the more people who get out of their cars for alternatives like biking or public transportation, the better for everyone involved in commuting. "I think when people see that there's a faster way to get to work in the morning, that doesn't involve being stuck in traffic for hours," he said. "That's a great thing for New York, and New Yorkers are coming together around that."

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