5/24/2011 - Annual Mayor's Ride highlights bike lanes, sidewalks in Asheville
by Nanci Bompey
Bringing traditional neighborhood characteristics back to Asheville neighborhoods after decades of urban renewal is tough - but some folks are doing it! In West Asheville, bike lanes and increased sidewalk construction are happening and making a difference in the lives of our citizens everyday!
ASHEVILLE -- Bike lanes aren't just a nice amenity for the folks at Cane Creek Cycling Components.
The Fletcher-based company manufactures a component that is "literally put on every bicycle in the world," said Chris Strout, director of domestic sales.
"As bicycle projects continue to be developed, our parts get sold more," said Strout, adding that the company has doubled its production and added staff as more people get around on two wheels. "It (bike lanes) has an absolute direct impact."
Strout and other bicycle advocates are urging federal and state lawmakers to save money for bike lanes and sidewalks as they grapple with tight budgets.
Federal money, funneled down through the state, pays for most bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including the city's newest bike lanes and sidewalks highlighted during the Mayor's Ride Wednesday afternoon.
Bicycle advocates, elected officials and others toured the improvements during the annual bicycle ride as part of Strive Not to Drive week.
"The federal funding is extremely important," said Michael Sule, of bicycle advocacy group Asheville on Bikes. "Our next step is to really take our advocacy to the county level and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is the decision-making body that spends the federal and state money."
Bicycle advocacy groups are working to ensure that money for bike lanes and sidewalks are preserved in the next federal transportation bill working its way through Congress.
Money for bicycle infrastructure avoided cuts in the last budget cycle, but its future is uncertain, said Darren Flusche, policy analyst at the League of American Bicyclists. He said lawmakers writing the House transportation bill have indicated they will cut funding for active transportation.
Federal transportation grants have paid for mountain bike trails in Alexander Park, greenways in Brevard and sidewalks near Emma Elementary School, among other improvements.
"It is safe to say that it (cuts) would be devastating for bicycle and pedestrian projects at the local level," Flusche said. "Huge amounts of local transportation project money trickle down from the federal level. It would really cut what localities were able to do."
Bicycle advocates contend that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are low-cost investments that can improve cities in the long term.
The entire city of Asheville and part of Buncombe County could get bike lanes and sidewalks for the same amount of money it would take to replace the Smoky Park Bridge, Strout said.
He and Liberty Bikes owner Claudia Nix traveled to Washington this month to advocate for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure funding.
"We are realists and we recognize the challenge with the budgets folks in Washington and Raleigh are facing," Strout said. "But we have very comprehensive data that bicycles, as a transportation tool, ... are a valuable part of today's economy."