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Philly Mayor: Tax Soda to Pay for Bikeways

Here's an idea whose time has come: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has proposed a tax on soda and other sugary drinks that contribute to obesity and poor health, and using the money to pay for public improvements, including bike trails.

Photo: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

The soda tax was first proposed by Kenney's predecessor, Michael Nutter, who encountered fierce opposition from beverage companies. (Interestingly, the publicity from that had the effect of reducing soda consumption anyway, the New York Times reported.)

At the rate things are going, up to 40 percent of Americans will develop type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. Soda taxes and active transportation infrastructure are a great prescription for changing that trajectory. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has more on how the policy will work:

Mayor Kenney has proposed a far-reaching precedent-setting tax on sugary drinks to raise $400 million for several very worthy programs, including universal pre-K, community schools, retro-fitting City-owned buildings to make them more energy efficient, and paying down the pension debt.

It will also go toward capitalizing a new $300 million bond fund, called Rebuild Philadelphia, to pay for the repair and upgrade of dozens of City recreation centers, libraries, and parks. Rebuild Philadelphia will infuse make badly needed new capital dollars to Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR) for its capital projects.

This means that Rebuild Philadelphia will make more funding available for trail development, which is good news for Circuit Trails. PPR and other development corporation agency partners, such as Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Manayunk Development Corporation, Delaware River City Corporation and Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, all work on developing trails such as the Schuylkill River Trail, the Central and North Delaware River trail, the East Coast Greenway, the Tacony Creek Trail, the Cresheim Trail, and others.

The Bicycle Coalition is asking readers to sign this petition to support the mayor's initiative, or testify at a public hearing early next month [PDF].

Elsewhere on the Network today: Columbus Underground shares a some big ideas for better transit in Ohio's capital city. The Urbanist reports that Seattle is scaling back plans to expand its bike network. And Beyond DC posts a succinct little animated GIF showing the vicious cycle of road widening and increased congestion known as "induced demand."

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