This ODOT plan riding on its rims
Ohio’s Department of Transportation recently unveiled its plan to boost walking and biking as transportation options for Ohioans. The pitch is that adopting these methods of transportation will save billions of dollars. An Associated Press report on the plan, which has been in development since 2019, showed ODOT found trips by foot or bike could save $12.7 billion in transportation and environmental costs over 20 years, and increasing those by even 1 percent could add $5 billion in savings.
Our communities have great nature trails available such as the popular Greenway Trail in Columbiana County and the Hike and Bike Trail in Mahoning County. But it would be hard to fathom even a few individuals using those trails to get back-and-forth from home to work or shop using a bike. Or feet for that matter. It is impractical to assume some residents could foresake their motor vehicles on a regular basis for a bike. Seriously? Also, what happens during the wintertime? Not too many would want to use a bike in cold temps while trying to pedal through ice and slush. And who would, for instance, groceries be carried home on a bike? A sidecar? Seriously?
ODOT acknowledges the infrastructure still has a way to go, and indeed, wants to improve it to make abandoning vehicles a more viable option. Ohio has an approximately 3,000-mile bike route system, but as the Associated Press points out, gaps persist including unsafe crossings and failing sidewalks (or none at all).
Bicyclist and pedestrian deaths already make up 14 percent of all Ohio roadway fatalities. Our infrastructure would need a massive update to make biking or walking regularly a safe option.
While citizens living in bigger cities such as Columbus might be able to live, work and shop all in one relatively small area, those of us living in more rural areas know just how spread out our communities are, especially in Columbiana County. Many who live in rural areas already drive 20 minutes or more one way, just to get to a grocery store. Getting to work may be an even longer commute. Many workers in our area work in nearby Pennsylvania or West Virginia. Or they commute from homes in those states to Ohio.
Commuting via bike or on foot is simply not an option for the majority of Ohioans. Officials will have to remember to shift their focus outside the major cities in deciding how much to invest on an infrastructure plan they claim will save “billions.