How Communities are Paying to Maintain Trails, Bike Lanes, and Sidewalks

This report addresses both the technical and political challenges of how communities are paying to maintain trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks. It examines agency maintenance policies and provides examples of communities who’ve successfully made these facilities a priority.

by Advocacy Advance

As part of the Advocacy Advance partnership between the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking, we travel around the country and talk to people about how to fund bicycling and walking projects. We get to see what happening all over the country and pick up on the exciting trends (e.g. multimodal ballot initiatives; Vision Zero) and common challenges. Sometimes the challenges are technical in nature; sometimes they are political.

We often heard people say: “If my community builds this trail/ protected bikeway/ sidewalk, even if we use federal funds, we will have to foot the bill for maintenance – and we can’t afford it.” For example, one advocate in a large rural western state explained the dilemma:

What we’re running into and hearing is that Parks Departments are becoming resistant to more urban paths being built because they are then expected to maintain them with no additional funding. Parks Departments are becoming strapped. How can we build a case for more facilities when there’s no money to maintain them? Our Department of Transportation will build separate paths but then sign agreements with counties or communities that will maintain them. It’s a really tough sell because counties don’t want that responsibility so they don’t want them built.

Having heard this several times, we decided to find out how other communities fund the on-going maintenance of their bicycling and walking facilities. We contacted planners and advocates in different communities to ask not just about trails, but also sidewalks and onroad bicycle facilities, like protected bikeways.

The response we heard from communities who are overcoming this challenge was remarkably consistent across community size, context, and project type: We build and maintain our bicycling and walking facilities because they are a priority for our community.

This report addresses both the technical and political challenges. It examines agency maintenance policies and procedures for bike/ped maintenance and it provides several examples of communities who’ve successfully made these facilities a sufficient priority to overcome the challenge of paying for maintenance. We share examples related to sidewalks, trails, and protected bikeways.

Attached document published December 2014

About the Author


At Advocacy Advance, we strive to help local communities and organizations fight to persuade their states and local governments to embrace bicycle and pedestrian projects. Even though funding is limited, we can help you show your local governments how to extend those federal funds and make the most of infrastructure projects. We find that highlighting the demand, cost-efficiency, and benefits of bicycle and pedestrian projects is the key to success.

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