One of the items that is coming close to the congressional budget knife is funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Some Republican leaders have described such funding as “not in the federal interest” and “frivolous.”

Consider these facts, however.

Biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips in the United States, even though funding for biking and walking projects accounts for only1.5 percent of the federal transportation budget.

That percentage translates to more than 4 billion bicycle trips and 40 billion walking trips a year, including trips to work, school, shopping and for recreation and tourism. Just what people need in our overweight condition.

Two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths are on federally funded highways. One-third of children’s traffic deaths happen when children are walking or bicycling and are struck by cars.

Bicycling and walking programs build sidewalks, crosswalks and bikeways, all of which improve accessibility and save lives.

Biking and walking are important forms of transportation, and funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements is an efficient use of federal transportation dollars.

For instance, Portland, Ore., built 300 miles of bike lanes and trails for the cost of one mile of highway.

Such projects create jobs and build local economies. Building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates 46 percent more jobs than building road-only projects per million dollars spent. Cities that invest in bicycle and pedestrian projects turn downtowns into destinations, and capitalize on increased business activity.

Eliminating the 1.5 percent of transportation funding spent on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure would have no meaningful impact on the federal budget, but it would decrease transportation options for American families in a time of rising gas prices, an uncertain economy and a need for exercise.

Peter Garrett, president

Kennebec Messalonskee Trails