Howard County Bike Funding Improves, Still Lags Behind Neighboring Counties
Joint Press Statement on FY 2019 Proposed 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 County Executive’s proposed FY 2019 budget which includes $1.25 million in funding for bicycle infrastructure projects:
When the County Executive announced his plan to invest $8 million in bike routes over the next three years, we were encouraged by this commitment, which he described as “the greatest financial investment ever made in bicycle infrastructure in Howard County.” This plan responded to the demand of more than 30 businesses and community institutions and over 1,500 people who called on the County Executive to significantly increase county funding to build the Bikeway and realize the vision of a more bikeable community. This coalition of supporters includes leading businesses, realtors, developers, environmental advocates, health groups and individuals who know that plans require an adequate investment to get properly implemented.
The $1.25 million in county funds allotted for bicycle infrastructure projects represents a notable increase compared to the $600,000 allotted last year. However, it still pales in comparison to neighboring counties like Montgomery and Anne Arundel, which spent $26 million and $7.5 million in FY18 respectively. It also falls short of the County Executive’s promised plan.
Although we support the County Executive’s intention to secure competitive state grant funding, the county lacks a track record of receiving significant levels of such funding. Based on projected county funding and this track record, it will be extremely challenging for the Bike Howard Express to be built, as envisioned, within the promised time frame.
As funding for bicycle and walking routes continues to lag, many in our community face the consequences: lower-income workers who struggle to get to work to earn a living, students who need safe routes to get to school, businesses that want to attract a millennial workforce, older adults who want to live in neighborhoods where they can bike to local attractions and property owners who desire the highest quality of life in their communities. Walkers miss out too: With full funding, the County Executive’s plan would include miles of shared bike/walk paths.
If we continue to fall behind in funding, we will continue to lose out on the potential benefits to health, the environment, the economy and local residents and workers. A plan should be judged by how well it is funded and implemented, not how good it sounds.
It is long past time that Howard County elevate bicycle and pedestrian transportation as a priority and invest the funding needed to build safe, accessible and connected routes that will allow people to easily travel to places they need to go – work, school, places of worship, MARC stations and more.
We are deeply grateful for and proud of the many leaders in our community who have taken a stand for bike and walk funding in Howard County. In the midst of competing priorities, we are heartened to know so many sincerely care about making safe and accessible biking and walking possible for more people in our community. We look forward to continue our efforts to work with the County Executive and County Council and make the vision of a more bikeable and walkable Howard County a reality.
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 30 businesses and organizations and 1,500 people 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 plan to fund and build projects aligned with the Bikeway in his Bike Howard Express plan with $8 million over three years, of which $4.7 million would rely on 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.