Blog: Todd Scott

Nationwide, it's cyclists and pedestrians, not cars, that spin the gears of cool cities. This week, bike and trail advocate Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, shows what true fuel economy means for Metro Detroit.

Post 1: Turn Off That Engine

Non-motorized transportation is a descriptive, albeit not-too-sexy term that includes walking, bicycling, kayaking, running, and more.  Perhaps the newer term "active transportation" is better.

Either choice, this is the cornerstone to my job and my passion. Perhaps few feel more strongly that Metro Detroit must do a better job embracing and accommodating non-motorized transportation.


The Federal Highway Administration has noted that bicyclists and pedestrians are an "indicator species" for livable communities. "People want to live and work in places where they can safely and conveniently walk and/or bicycle and not always have to deal with worsening traffic congestion, road rage and the fight for a parking space."

Other communities around the U.S. like Chicago, New York, and Portland have not only recognized this need, but have made significant investments for improving bikeability and walkability. In order to be competitive, Metro Detroit must provide these types of livable communities that can attract and retain businesses and people.

To accept the old excuse that "we’re just a car town" is to resign from competing.

In addition, studies show that livable communities that encourage more biking and walking (and transit!) are healthier and have lower obesity rates. One recent study determined that "those who biked to work were fitter, leaner, less likely to be obese, and had better triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and insulin levels than those who didn't active commute to work." Not bad.

Livable communities also benefit children. In one generation, the percentage of children walking or biking to school has decreased from 50% to 15%. Certainly, this is one factor behind the tripling of childhood obesity.

And, just as active transportation can reduce the waistline, it can also reduce the bottom line. Car ownership and use costs the average U.S. household more than $8,000 annually. A bike? $300 a year.

Speaking of cars, some certainly love to wave the green flag. (We're looking at you, Prius!) The truth is that compared with bicycling and walking, their flag is a very light shade of green. Local-buying cyclists and pedestrians get their fuel from Michigan farmers – and that's the gold standard for green.

On the topic of fuel, there has been an increased recognition that America's dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue. With 40% of our trips being less than 2 miles, it certainly seems that active transportation could help reduce that dependence.

One final word is that few expect non-motorized transportation to be the exclusive choice for Metro Detroiters. Not having transportation choices is not a solution. But unfortunately for many would-be cyclists and pedestrians, their communities weren't built to provide any choice but the car.

We can change that. We must change that.