Feds Deem Pedestrians, Cyclists and Motorists Equals
At long last, the feds have said the needs of pedestrians and cyclists must be placed alongside, not behind, those of motorists.
In what amounts to a sea change for the Department of Transportation, the automobile will no longer be the prime consideration in federal transportation planning. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the needs of pedestrians and cyclists will be considered along with those of motorists, and he makes it clear that walking and riding are “an important component for livable communities.”
“People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning,” LaHood wrote on his blog. “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”
He goes on:
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.
LaHood’s announcement came on the heels of his appearance at the National Bike Summit, where he was greeted like a rock star and told the crowd, “Our mission is the same as your mission,” and “I think we’re beginning to put our money where our mouth is on these issues.”
The new policy falls in line with changes the Obama Administration has enacted in the past year. In June, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The partnership will coordinate polices to “help improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.” LaHood’s announcement is a step toward that goal.
What his policy statement effectively says is multimodal transportation (meaning pedestrians and cyclists) will be an “equal” part of all new infrastructure projects getting funding from Washington.
“Walking and bicycling foster safer, more livable, family-friendly communities; promote physical activity and health; and reduce vehicle emissions and fuel use,” reads the introduction to the policy statement. “Legislation and regulations exist that require inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian policies and projects into transportation plans and project development. Accordingly, transportation agencies should plan, fund, and implement improvements to their walking and bicycling networks, including linkages to transit.”
Does this mean every new project will have to consider bicycles and pedestrians as equals to automobiles? Not exactly. States and local governments can, of course, create infrastructure outside the policy if they aren’t using federal funds. That said, when it comes to doling out federal transportation funds, projects that adhere to the new policy statement will be given a higher priority, so it is within the best interests of cities and states to adhere to it. With a new transportation bill looming that could reach a half trillion dollars, anyone wanting a piece of the pie will have to take pedestrians and cyclists into account. Call it a carrot-and-stick approach.
This doesn’t mean you”ll see bike lanes on that new expressway through town. The feds are still going to bankroll conventional roads and highways and so forth. But you’ll see bicycle connection points to these roads, such as trails and shared use pathways to create multimodal transportation.
Beyond making it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to get around, the move is intended to make it safer for them to get around. A report released late last year by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership found more than 43,000 pedestrians nationwide have died since 2000 on roads the authors complain don’t provide adequate crosswalks and other safety features. The authors say states aren’t spending enough to make roads safer for people who are on foot, on a bike or in a wheelchair.
“This is an issue that has been ignored far too long, even as thousands have died or been injured unnecessarily just by doing something as simple as trying to cross the street,” James Corless, director of Transportation for America, said in the T4A blog. “We thank Secretary Lahood for his leadership at DOT and for elevating this urgent issue to the level of prominence that it deserves.”
To that end, the Department of Transportation establishes general recommended actions local governments and transportation agencies should follow to create transportation parity for pedestrians and cyclists. What’s more, the projects must be accessible to all, and they must plan for future growth and demand. “It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility,” the policy states.
Some of LaHood’s specific recommendations include integrating bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on new, rehabilitated and limited-access bridges. Secretary LaHood also wants more tracking of non-motorized transportation, long-term maintenance and snow removal on existing infrastructure and improved transportation arrangements for bicycles and pedestrians during the construction and rehabilitation of projects.
Given that building highways costs 10 times more (.pdf) more than shared-use pathways, cities could see significant savings. LaHood summed up the outcome of the new policy best when he said it will promote “cleaner, healthier air; less congested roadways; and more livable, safe, cost-efficient communities.”
Photo of a cyclist on New York’s Upper West Side: Ed Yourdon / Flickr
Photo of a pedestrian in a crosswalk: Mad African!: (Broken Sword) / Flickr
Read More http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/03/lahood-policy-statement/#ixzz0ijvT3Wi1