Active transportation is any self-propelled transportation method such as walking, biking, roller blading, skateboarding, etc. For years, active transportation has been a focus for community leaders in the Fargo/Moorhead area. We can evolve our transportation culture by creating more active choices for getting around, while accommodating cars and other transit.
The FM Metropolitan Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan highlights three major benefits to active transit:
A Transportation Research Board (TRB) report notes, “Walking briskly for 30 minutes on five or more days per week reduces the risk of premature mortality and the development of numerous chronic diseases, improves psychological well-being, and helps prevent weight gain and obesity.” The same can be attributed to bicycling.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an average vehicle in the US uses over 500 gallons of fuel and creates 4.7 metro tons of CO2 per year. Bicycle and pedestrian modes of travel require no fuel and create zero emissions. These methods improve our health and respect the environment.
An annual study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) finds that the average cost of owning and operating a vehicle in 2015 was $8,698.
Active transportation also benefits the economy. A study from Minnesota, quoted by Strong Towns, a education and advocacy organization committed to creating durable, fiscally sustainable and desirable communities, says that property values increase with bicycle trails nearby. In fact, 70% of agents surveyed reported they use bicycle trails as a selling point for homes. Cycling also contributes $133 billion annually to the United States economy, supporting 1.1 million jobs and creating almost $18 million in tax revenue.
Rachel Quednau of Strong Towns says:
In a concentrated, walkable neighborhood with shops and restaurants, passersby are far more likely to frequent multiple businesses than if they were just driving to a specific store in an auto-oriented area. Walkable neighborhoods with local businesses also help keep economic gains in the community when compared with strip and big box developments on the edge of town.
The flat landscape in the Red River Valley, makes the Fargo-Moorhead metro an active transportation paradise. To take advantage of this unique characteristic of our area, we need infrastructure to support safe places to walk and bike. Downtown Fargo has appropriate density, a mix of land uses, and has urban design elements that encourage bicycle and pedestrian travel. Strong Towns explains:
When transportation is limited to cars, that means many people are shut out of the transportation system: the elderly, the disabled, and children. In a car-centric environment, anyone who cannot drive for physical, mental or age-related reasons is forced to rely on others to transport them around. In a walkable neighborhood, however, travel is much more accessible. Wheelchair users are able to wheel to work instead of having to wait for a special bus or a ride from a friend. Walkability means access for a much wider swath of the population.
With help from community members and city leaders, Fargo-Moorhead has seen major strides toward their mission to develop infrastructure to encourage walking and biking. City leaders engage with citizens along the way, to meet their needs and create vibrant, healthy city corridors for residents and visitors to utilize.
The first on-street bike lanes in the Fargo metro were painted on 4th Avenue North in August 2010. Since then, the City of Fargo has developed over 40 miles of bike lanes! The City has also constructed North Dakota’s first protected bike lane on NP Avenue in downtown Fargo. Focusing on incremental changes, adding one block of bike lanes at a time, allows us to test the results and make better decisions. Like many cities, Fargo has also introduced a bike sharing system, Great Rides, to allow anyone the ability to choose biking as an alternative to driving.
In the future, City leaders in Fargo aim to continue to develop infrastructure supporting active transportation. With over 200 miles of off-street bike trails in the metro already, we’re just getting started. Streets Alive is back again this summer, June 25th and August 27th. Ditch your car and come downtown to bike, walk, play, and run with family and friends!