Howard County Bike Spending Signifies a Small Step Forward, Still Falls Short

Joint Press Statement on County Council-Approved FY 2019 Budget

The Horizon Foundation, Bicycling Advocates of Howard County and American Heart Association, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, issued the following joint statement in response to the Howard County Council’s approval of the FY 2019 budget proposed by County Executive Allan Kittleman, which includes $1.45 million in funding for bicycle infrastructure projects:

Today the Howard County Council approved $1.45 million in bike spending proposed by County Executive Kittleman. As proponents of a more bikeable and walkable Howard County, we are heartened by the County Executive’s intent to improve bikeability on our community’s streets as part of his BikeHoward Express plan. We remain concerned, however, that this level of spending and this plan barely scrape the surface of what is needed to make a meaningful difference for health, the economy, the environment, transportation equity and quality of life in our county.

Though the county’s 2019 funding on bike projects exceeds that of the previous year, it still lags far behind bike spending levels in neighboring counties. Last year, Montgomery County budgeted the equivalent of $24.97 per person and Anne Arundel County budgeted the equivalent of $13.20 per person. In Howard County, even with the small progress cited above, this year’s bike spending comes out to $4.57 per person.

This amount is not enough to truly make bike routes that are more safe, accessible, connected and useful for county residents. At this funding level, the county is poised to undertake only the bare minimum, cheapest forms of biking facilities possible.

Over the past two years, nearly 2,000 people and more than 40 local businesses and organizations spoke out in support of county investment in the Bikeway, our proposed network of core, connected bike routes from the county’s Bicycle Master Plan. Earlier this year, the County Executive announced his commitment to build the BikeHoward Express – a set of connected bike routes in the county. Together with the funding included in the FY 2019 budget, this plan represents a small step forward, but falls dramatically short of the need and vision expressed in the Bikeway plan. There are key differences:

Bikeway BikeHoward Express
50 miles of connected bike routes 46.5 miles of connected bike routes
$9 million total county cost $3.3 million total county cost (county will try to raise $4.7 million of state grant funding for an additional 1.5 miles of critical shared use paths though that level of state funding would be unprecedented)
Designed for safety, accessibility and quality to help more people feel comfortable riding their bikes around the community Seemingly designed for lower costs and biking by experienced bikers and not the majority of the population
Greater use of the safest, “higher-level” bike facilities, such as bike paths that are physically separated from roadways Seemingly greater use of cheaper, “lower-level” facilities, such as unprotected bike lanes painted onto existing roadways/shoulders
Very detailed plan, specifying all bike facilities envisioned along with route-specific costs Less detailed plan, does not specify all bike facilities envisioned nor route-specific costs

Our coalition of supporters believes that our community wants and deserves the safest, best quality, “higher-level” bike infrastructure envisioned in the Bikeway plan that makes both biking and walking more safe and accessible for everyone, from children going to school to residents heading to work. We must increase our county’s bike spending to ensure that this vision is achieved and to ensure that we do not continue to fall behind.

We are thankful for the many leaders in our community who have taken a stand for bike spending in Howard County and we look forward to continue working with the County Executive and County Council to make the vision of a more bikeable and walkable Howard County a reality.

Background information

The Bikeway is a proposed 50-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian routes from the county’s Bicycle Master Plan that would help people in Howard County bike and walk more easily and safely to places they need to go. More than 40 businesses and organizations and nearly 2,00 people have asked the county to fund the Bikeway with $3 million to ensure that the community’s streets are designed to promote health, the environment, the economy and transportation equity. The proposed routes would be within one mile of more than half of county residences, schools and parks. In February 2018, the County Executive presented his BikeHoward Express plan which would include 46.5 miles of routes through $3.3 million in county funding over three years and 1.5 miles of critical shared-use paths reliant upon $4.7 million in competitive state grants. Over the past five years, the county has averaged $400,000 per year in these grants.

The Horizon Foundation is the largest independent health philanthropy in Maryland. We lead community change so everyone in Howard County can live a longer, better life. We are committed to improving health through innovative initiatives, collaborative partnerships, strategic grantmaking and thoughtful advocacy. Learn more at www.thehorizonfoundation.org.

The Bicycling Advocates of Howard County (Bike HoCo) is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization founded in 2008 as a coalition of cycling clubs and bicycle riders in Howard County, Maryland.  Bike HoCo advocates to improve the visibility and safety of bicycling, supports bicycling education programs for adults and children, and promotes a vision of bicycling and sharing the road as part of a healthy, energy efficient, and environmentally sound transportation system to help achieve a sustainable future for Howard County and for Maryland. Learn more at www.bikehoco.org.

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.  For more information visit www.heart.org.