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American academics call for protected cycle lanes as Donald Trump looks to rebuild transport infrastructure

America's transport infrastructure is "like a third-world country" according to the president-elect - will his proposed rebuild include cycle lanes though?...

Academics in America are calling for protected bikeways to be implemented as research in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) states that the US tops the list of high-income countries with the greatest number of cyclists injured or killed per kilometer ridden.

But what does the prospect of such infrastructure being implemented look like as the country prepares for a presidential hand-over and the beginning of controversial President-elect Donald Trump's tenure in the White House?

The research presented in the AJPH states that cycling infrastructure investment - specifically in “bicycle infrastructure with physical separation from motor vehicles” - is needed to achieve a “Vision Zero” goal of no road deaths.

The research from John Pucher and Ralph Buehler of Rutgers University and Virginia Tech respectively, highlights a number of US cities that have invested in cycling infrastructure to differing degrees, and the effect that investment has had on bicycle trips and fatalities.

The pair’s data from New York City shows a 381% expansion in bikeway networks between 2000 and 2015. In that time bicycle trip numbers grew by 207% and the number of serious injuries and fatalities fell by 72%, a record the academics say shows "significant improvements in cycling safety."

The problem is that investment like this isn’t widespread enough. “Except for some college towns and a few large cities, most roads in the United States have no cycling infrastructure.” Pucher says.

“What exists is often dangerously designed, poorly maintained, and not connected to form a useful network.”

The pair go on to talk about the type of investment that’s necessary. Pucher adds: “It is not simply a matter of expanding bicycle infrastructure, however, the specific type of bicycle infrastructure matters. The safest kind of facility, by far … are on-street bicycle lanes that are physically separated from motor vehicles by raised curbs, bollards, or concrete barriers.

“More and better bicycle infrastructure and safer cycling would encourage Americans to make more of their daily trips by bicycle and, thus, help raise the currently low physical activity levels of the US population.”

We can't predict whether or not cycling infrastructure implementation is high on President-elect Donald Trump's agenda (we doubt it); but we do know that the Federal Highway Administration already provides a Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide for use in local and state governments.

Donald Trump also allegedly told the chairman of the House Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure that he was going to be "the greatest infrastructure president in the nation's history."

While the President and federal government don't have direct jurisdiction of inner-city roads, the President-elect is clearly aware of how much of an impact poor road infrastructure has on the economy.

In the preface to his book "Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again," Trump highlighted the poor state of the country's roads and the impact they have on the country's economy. He wrote: "Our roads are decaying and full of potholes, while traffic jams are costing millions in lost income for drivers who have jobs in congested cites."

With the right framing, cycling could be presented to the President-to-be as a genuine option for alleviating the stress on the country's inner-city roads, its healthcare system, and its economy.

The man's got history when it comes to cycling too. Trump once launched his own bike race called the 'Tour de Trump' - which was supposed to be "bigger than the Tour de France" before it flopped after two editions - despite having never ridden a bicycle in his life. Sure it's a stretch, but perhaps the intrinsic value that cycling investment offers beyond cycling - within the realms of healthcare and economics - will become evident to him, just like the commercial potential of an American cycling equivalent of the Tour de France did. 

Whether he can then influence state governments to focus on said infrastructure investment is another question entirely.

- Read more: Towns on US-Mexico border plan shared bike path

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