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Here is an interesting report from the Rails-to-Trails Cnnservancy about active transportation away from urban centers. Publication year is 2012, regrets I don't have the exact date handy.

Pretty full color version:

Plain vanilla version:

Executive Summary:

Some commentators and decision-makers have long assumed that biking and walking are strictly a "big city" phenomenon, and that rural America can't benefit substantially from bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure. (1, 2, 3) Previous research has found that rural Americans walk and bicycle at 58 percent of the rate that urban Americans do. (4) However, the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tell a different story.

For some categories of rural communities, active transportation [human-powered mobility, including biking and walking]is as common as in urban areas. The share of work trips made by bicycle in small towns is nearly double that of urban centers. Further, biking and walking count as significant means of transportation all across the countryside. In coming years, active transportation can play an even bigger role in making small town America more attractive for young families and business investment—improving economic vitality, public safety and overall health in smaller communities in every U.S. region.

This new information has several critical if not surprising policy implications.
Federal investment in biking and walking benefits rural areas as much or more than urban centers. Rural areas receive almost twice as much funding per capita as urban areas from the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. There is a special need for this federal role because smaller communities are often unable to make necessary community improvements without federal support.

Active transportation programs directly benefit America’s youth, and thus can help rural areas to retain talented young people and families. Safe Routes to School, TE and other programs have made dramatic differences in the safety, health and quality of life for numerous children and families in rural communities from Florida to Idaho.

Active transportation is a smart investment relevant to all Americans at a time when our nation grapples with budget deficits, high unemployment and rising energy costs. Biking, Walking and trail projects are very cheap compared to road projects and can reduce the need for costly new highways. Active transportation creates more jobs per dollar than high- way projects (5) , and attracts business investment.


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What this report does not define is what is an urban area and what is a rural area. Frankly rural areas that walking and cycling really do account to a significant amount of traffic are small towns. Small towns if considered rural (and they are) would have some of the same advantages of cycling as a form of transportation in that trips are short and time isn't that critical on short trips. Any town that needs a side walk for people to get around already likely has one. Small towns need bike lanes about as much as I need an entry to the Tour de France. Traffic levels just are not high enough for it to be a big deal in the vast majority of the cases and alternate routes are usually available.

Though it may be good to get the kids out and encourage them to play, its hardly an effective transportation method for kids to school. Just how many kids are left that do not ride a school bus or transportation is the responsibility of mom and or dad (which is where it should be) If you want to make the case that its of value to the community like a park, then that's the case that to make.

What I do know is no one is going to ride their bike from the family farm into town for supplies bike lane or not. Ranchers might use a mountain bike on the ranch, but it sure won't be primary transportation. The smallest of towns that do not have easy access to stores are not going to ride a bike 20 miles to the next town to get to a Walmart.

One thing I do know for sure. A highway might cost more, but a business (some more than others) will definitely consider location and condition of highways when making a decision as to where to locate a new business. Many businesses will also consider access to airports and the world markets that the air transportation system opens. Rail lines are consider as well as water routes for some business. But outside of the cycling industry, I can think of no business that considers a bike lane as a major consideration of a location of a new business that will create jobs and employ people. It is about profit and nothing else.

IF the local communities do not value the projects, regardless of how inexpensive some might consider these to be, enough to pay for them locally, then why should people from the rest of the country pay for it for them. Its called self reliance. IF the community values that investment in a bike lane and pays for it themselves, good for them. Unlike roads, these are not connected and are not a part of any national system. Nor should they be. It's one thing to ask a retiree in Fl to be taxed for a road that connects to the Ports of CA for transportation of goods that are for the common good. Its another to make that retiree pay for a trail that the vast majority of local citizens do not use, want or want to pay for.
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