Sometimes the greatest hurdles to getting residents to act on climate are the most simple to resolve. This is especially true in large cities and urban centers where residents don’t yet make use of mass transit, cycling paths, and walking trails. In the Washington DC area, this is especially true—but local climate leaders are hoping to change that.
The beauty of incorporating walkways, trails and cycling paths into a city climate action plan is that often times these solutions are easy to implement, and can capitalize on the resources and know-how that cities already have. For instance, in Washington DC, leaders are working to ensure that pedestrian paths are cleared and ready to be used after ice and snowfall. Facilitating the use of existing paths and roadways for pedestrians often requires a small shift in priorities and an awareness of the potential opportunities.
The benefits of these small actions can be surprisingly big. Encouraging walking and cycling as real options for commuters can sharply reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, improve the public health of residents and families, and help make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Find out how to implement simple and effective climate solutions in your city by checking out Path to Positive Communities!
Last month as the National Capital Region was digging out from our latest Snowmageddon, I had an "aha" moment cycling to work on Northern Virginia's ice-crusted, snowy Mount Vernon Trail. While cars sped by unimpeded on the adjacent George Washington Parkway, dedicated bike commuters struggled to navigate the uncleared trail. With all of the public benefits provided by human-powered transit, why don't we work as hard to serve these users?
The DC area has one of the nation's highest rates of bicycle commuting, so this issue really hits home here. The Mount Vernon Trail is a key safe route for bike commuters, runners, and pedestrians moving between highly congested Northern Virginia and DC. Yet the trail is not cleared of snow as a matter of policy.
This is no way unique to the DC area. Leaving critical bike linkages covered in snow and ice until Mother Nature decides to intervene is the norm in many cities. Sidewalks are similarly subject to a patchwork of strategies to keep them clear of snow, which can force pedestrians into the street.
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