Spending More Green for Bike Paths
Spending More Green for Bike Paths

Today, a lone visitor parks his car on the concrete parking lot and walks into a grove of trees protected from modern society's expansion. While only eight acres in size, the wooded glen provides a welcome respite from the travails and commonality of suburban life.

On this warm fall day, the visitor is drawn by the trickling sound of water dripping down the glen's double waterfall. It's easy to imagine a time in the not-so-distant past when the visitor would also have tuned his ear to the step of a Native American, probably from the Wyandot tribe, which founded the haven.

Today, the visitor to Indian Run Falls Park in Dublin, Ohio, is more likely to hear the steps of a fellow hiker, the barking of a neighborhood dog, or perhaps the click of a bicycle lock. But thanks to the pervious concrete parking lot by the road, this visitor, along with those who will follow, can share in natural history.

When community leaders opted to upgrade the park enabling more visitors to enjoy the natural setting, they faced a challenge. Indian Run Falls, along with its calming setting, is also a conservatory and a significant natural link to central Ohio's rich past. The park is home to the creeping rock cress. This unique plant is dependent on natural ground-water seepage through the valley's limestone cliffs to survive. Without that groundwater, there wouldn't be the run, and without the run, the fauna.

What the visitor may not realize are the benefits of a parking lot paved with pervious concrete. Stormwater that would have normally been directed away from the park toward the municipal stormwater collection system now drains directly into the park's soil, feeding the natural setting.

In the last few years, the same people who once berated concrete as the source of society's woes are coming back to take another look at the material. There is perhaps no better time than now in the history of concrete production and sales. Parks, bikeways, and trails could be the next boom market for concrete.

Biking forward

Americans are rediscovering biking and hiking trails in a big way. For some, it's an economic decision, their personal way to combat higher fuel costs. For others, it's a plan to a return to simpler ways of transportation. And for community leaders and planners, it's a measured response to ensure a more sustainable lifestyle.

Fueled by this popular groundswell of support, the potential for growth is tremendous. A recent national survey conducted by a consortium of biking associations indicated that about one-third of all Americans take a bike ride each year. While this seems high, the actual number of trips is relatively low. Most experts indicate that biking and walking account only for about 10% of all trips.

Why don't more Americans hike, bike, or even walk? Many experts believe that government officials have failed to allocate enough construction money to build and maintain paths. For example, in recent years, hiking and biking trail construction has received only 1% of federal transportation funds.

This policy has led to a safety problem. Only 25% of all walking can take place on roads or streets designed with adequate sidewalks. Properly designed bike lanes only account for 5% of all trips. The result of this under-funding and lack of commitment is evident in the safety reports. Walking and biking accidents account for 13% of transportation fatalities.