The American Lung Association recently released its annual "State of the Air" report that showed that Pittsburgh air quality is improving but our region still has some of the dirtiest air in the United States. Our region has made great strides in shedding its dirty air image, but there is still much progress to be made.
Fortunately there is something we can do now to reduce pollution: investing in bicycling and walking infrastructure will reduce traffic congestion, cut down on tailpipe emissions harmful to human health and reduce the amount of climate change gases in our atmosphere. A short, 4-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe.
And the benefits don't stop at better air quality. Walkable, bikeable communities also boast higher property values, and not only do they keep more dollars in citizens' pockets, those citizens spend those dollars in the local economy. New York City recently published a study showing that streets with safe bikeways had 49 percent higher retail sales than streets without. Many Pittsburgh businesses have taken the initiative to be certified as bike-friendly employers, and the Legislature should follow their lead.
The Pennsylvania Legislature is currently negotiating a comprehensive transportation funding bill that could for the first time provide state funds to create more safe bicycle and pedestrian-friendly bikeways and streets in our community and across the state. These funds would help Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities further implement our bicycle and pedestrian plan, which would create a virtuous cycle of more people biking and walking, improving our air quality and keeping more money in the local economy. I hope that these important provisions are included in the final transportation funding bill.