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Transportation issue is complicated

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 $12.7B in transportation and environmental costs over 20 years, and increasing those by even 1 percent could add $5B in savings.

The city of Marietta has a wonderful bike path that is an option for those who want exercise and just to enjoy the fresh air. But a large number — in fact, most — people who work or shop in Marietta couldn’t use their bikes (or their feet) to get to and from their home in order to do so.

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% 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. 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. There is also the matter of the many people in the Mid-Ohio Valley (and along all of Ohio’s borders) who may live in one state and work in another. For many of those people, commuting involves crossing major bridges, too.

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.”

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