Ray LaHood, the US Secretary of Transportation, encouraged the Department of Transportation to raise bicycling and walking to equal terms with motorized forms of transportation in a new policy statement this month.
LaHood announced the need for major reform in transportation policy on the Department of Transportation blog several weeks ago. The Policy Statement on Bicycling and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendation was signed on March 11 and announced on March 15.
“This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” LaHood said.
The statement puts walking and bicycling on equal ground with other transportation modes. It ensures that there are transportation choices for people of all ages and abilities, especially children. The policy recommendation asks urban planners to go beyond a minimum design standard and integrates bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on rehabilitated and limited-access bridges.
The statement seeks data to set targets for walking and biking trips. It also sets provisions for maintaining sidewalks and shared-use paths, in the same way roadways are maintained, especially during snowy weather. It requires the improvement of non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects.
The statement is similar to the fast growing Complete Streets policy whereby cycling advocates support a redesign for road use to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and transit passengers and to build road networks that are safer for everyone.
“We like and support the new guidelines,” said Bikes Belong executive director Tim Blumenthal. “Secretary LaHood recognizes that bicycling is a cost-effective transportation solution that warrants more consideration and backing. His approach is dramatically different — better — than that of previous Transportation Secretaries.”
The statement has its share of critics. Republican congressman ridiculed the idea of ‘complete streets for all users’ at a meeting of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development earlier this month. The main objection was that bicycling and walking considerations take funding away from motorized transportation projects.
“Critics of the plan don’t recognize how bicycling is already helping to reduce road congestion, air pollution, and parking requirements and costs in cities like Minneapolis, New York, Portland and many others,” said Blumenthal. “Equal consideration doesn’t mean equal funding. We don’t need that. Currently, bicycling and walking receive about 1.3 percent of federal transportation funding, at a time when these modes account for 12 percent of all trips made by Americans. If we could increase this funding to 3 or 4 percent, bike riding would increase significantly and a variety of meaningful benefits would follow.”