Study: boosting Ohio walking and biking could save billions

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Boosting walking and biking opportunities for Ohioans could save billions of dollars over the next 20 years, according to a plan released Thursday by the state Department of Transportation.

ODOT’s Walk.Bike.Ohio plan also envisions new transportation options as the number of teenagers earning driver’s licenses drops and a growing over-65 population looks for other ways to get around than by car.

“This plan outlines what ODOT will seek to advance over the next five years in order to improve walking and biking as a transportation option in Ohio,” said ODOT Active Transportation Manager Caitlin Harley.

The plan, in development since 2019, found that existing trips by foot or bike can save Ohioans $12.7 billion in transportation and environmental costs over 20 years. Increasing such trips by just 1% could add another $5 billion in savings.

Ohio has about a 3,000-mile bike route system, but gaps persist including unsafe crossings and failing sidewalks, the plan found. Bicyclist and pedestrian deaths compromise 14% of all Ohio roadway fatalities.

Boosting walking and biking options can reduce those fatalities, improve recreational and commuting opportunities in communities without many non-car options, and address Ohio’s low national rankings in health outcomes and physical problems such as obesity, according to the plan.