Sunday, December 7, 2008

Virginia Climate Change Report recommends more bike commuting

In December 2007 Governor Tim Kaine established the Governor's Commission on Climate Change. "The commission will prepare a plan for Virginia that identifies ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The final draft report was just released, and several of the recommendations note the importance of increasing the number of Virginians who bike.

The main emphasis of the transportation goals is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to driving: "3. Virginia will reduce GHG emissions related to vehicle miles traveled through expanded commuter choice, improved transportation system efficiency, and improved community designs."

The Commission recommends that the state Transportation Plan "include coordination of transportation and land use as a key policy goal and to require the Plan to include quantifiable measures...and achievable goals relating to greenhouse gas reduction. Suggested goals include reduction of GHG emissions from the transportation sector, transit riders per mile of transit infrastructure, percentage of Virginians who walk or bike to work, and percentage of freight carried by rail. Progress towards the goals should be monitored through the annual Transportation Performance Report."

It's noted in the report that "the CTB has amended its road construction standards to make new or upgraded roads more pedestrian- and bike-friendly." It goes on to note that the policy means nothing without funds: "The CTB should ensure that funding is available for localities to implement these standards, develop and provide funding and technical assistance to encourage local governments to construct pedestrian and bicycle improvements, and compile and coordinate local and regional plans to develop a pedestrian and bicycle network." This makes it all that much more important that Fairfax County has an up to date bike master plan.

One way to provide better bike facilities is to make all our streets complete streets: "VDOT should adopt a "complete streets" policy to design and operate roadways to allow safe, attractive, and comfortable travel for all users."

And last but not least, the Commission recommends that the State provide better support for bicyclists who bike to work: "Virginia agencies and institutions should implement programs to promote alternatives to driving, including creating new or expanded benefits for state workers who take transit, walk, or bike to work, and create program examples for local governments and private businesses. These benefits should be equal to or greater than those provided for state employees to park their personal automobiles at work. All office buildings owned or rented by the Commonwealth should provide bike racks. Where possible, all office buildings owned or rented by the Commonwealth should be located near transit facilities."

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