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Gas prices have raced toward four bucks for the second time in three years. So it's more crucial than ever to find quick, enduring ways to free our nation from overdependence on oil.
Millions of Americans suffer when prices at the pump rise, because they have no alternative to driving almost everywhere they go. We need to create a transportation system that will not be held hostage by volatile fuel prices.
Here's some good news: Over the past few years, simple infrastructure improvements (bike paths, lanes, etc) making it more convenient and safe for people to bike and walk have been constructed coast-to-coast. Cities from New York to Minneapolis to San Francisco have enjoyed 100 percent or more increases in the number of people biking to work, school and shopping.
Smaller cities from Greenville, South Carolina, to North Little Rock, Arkansas to Long Beach, California are now following suit. Creating better conditions for biking and walking is one proven innovation to cushion us from the economic upheaval of high gas prices.
But here's some troubling news: much of the talk around Washington and state capitals this year is about eliminating or slashing these successful programs. That's penny-wise and dollar-dumb. Biking and walking comprise only 1.5 percent of the overall federal transportation budget, while they account for 12 percent of all trips made by Americans today.