Bicycle and pedestrian advocates from around the country received a pleasant surprise when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood jumped up on a hearing room table at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., to thank the crowd and to reconfirm his support for biking and walking. The next day, LaHood announced a major new DOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation, Regulations and Recommendations. “It is simply the strongest statement of support for prioritizing bicycling and walking ever to come from a sitting secretary of transportation,” the League of American Bicyclists noted on the group’s blog.
Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.
We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
To set this approach in motion, we have formulated key recommendations for state DOTs and communities:
• Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
• Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
• Go beyond minimum design standards.
• Collect data on walking and biking trips.
• Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
• Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
• Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.
Now, this is a start, but it’s an important start. These initial steps forward will help us move forward even further.
Bicycle and pedestrian advocates around the country praised LaHood’s announcement, which some think might lead to a national Complete Streets policy. The new DOT policy even addresses concerns such as snow removal from sidewalks and shared-use paths, which is a major issue during Alaska winters. In addition to praising LaHood’s announcement, the National Complete Streets Coalition blog noted that the Institute of Transportation Engineers at its conference Monday in Savannah, Ga., announced a new recommended practice for designing multi-modal urban streets, Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach.
Unfortunately, not everybody was happy with LaHood’s announcement and on March 17 several Republicans ridiculed bike lanes and even LaHood (a former Republican Representative from Illinois) during a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. The Courthouse News Service reported that Ohio Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette even asked during the hearing if there still was mandatory drug testing in the Department of Transportation.
A blog post on the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage site said LaHood’s announcement couldn’t have been more timely, since the Anchorage Assembly and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan are working on the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, which is up for additional public hearings and a possible vote during the Tuesday, March 23, meeting of the Anchorage Assembly (5 p.m. at the Assembly Chambers at Z.J. Loussac Library, Agenda Item 13-C, click agenda link for supporting documents). The Anchorage Bicycle Plan previously was discussed during the March 2 meeting of the Anchorage Assembly, and video is available from this link. If you can attend the meeting, take your bike helmet to show your support. If you can’t attend, the meeting is televised on Channel 10 in Anchorage.