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Ray LaHood Portrait

New Federal Transportation Policy: Bicycles = Cars

Imagine for a moment, if you will, a world where there are no second class modes of transportation. Bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers… all receiving the same consideration from our government and city planners. What would that look like? How would people react?

Well, we are about to find out.

Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, says that the government will no longer favor automobiles in transportation planning and when handing out federal money for projects.

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.

Fast Lane, the official blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation

He goes on to spell out 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.

As you would expect, this news is being very well received by a lot of people… especially the cycling and green communities. One blog has even proclaimed LaHood “cycling’s man of the century”.

Ray LaHood Portrait

Ray LaHood, cycling’s new hero

Part of me shares their enthusiasm. This is such great news and is obviously a much needed change in how we view transportation policy – especially in cities. It has the potential to benefit just about everyone, including (even if they don’t realize it) automobile drivers who hate sharing the road with their pedal powered brethren.

But another part of me can’t help but wonder – what does this really say about us when this is considered such a new, bold idea. Even “radical” by some.

Really?

With growing concerns about energy dependence, obesity epidemics, pollution, green house gases… this falls more under the “well, duh!” category for me. I feel sort of the same away about this news as I did when I heard that states were going to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. Sure, I’m excited and happy about it, but also annoyed and shocked that it took as long as it did to happen.

I have a way of finding the “half empty” in situations – character flaw, I’m told.

At any rate, not everyone is welcoming this news. The usual suspects, of course. Corporate interests and their friends in congress, mostly Republican it seems. Although I suppose we can’t apply too broad a label here since LaHood was a Republican congressman himself.

Here is what the National Association of Manufacturers had to say:

LaHood’s pedal parity is nonsensical for a modern industrial nation

Shopfloor Blog

As best as I can tell, they appear to be concerned that providing safe and equal transportation infrastructure for non-motorized use will cut into money for freight systems.

And check out this doozy from Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio

So is it his thought that perhaps we’re going to have, like, rickshaws carrying cargo from state to state, or people with backpacks?

New York Times

Yeah, that is exactly what this policy is suggesting. Nice Straw Man, douche.

As opposition voices shout louder and louder it will be interesting to see how this plays out. But to his credit, LaHood does not seem to be backing down.

1 Comment

  1. Leah
    Leah04-14-2010

    Paul has some really interesting historical insight on this – this is actually a major shift in rhetoric on this policy issue; and sometimes the shift in rhetoric is enough to change everything. The people who should be very concerned are the fast food franchises as it will be hard to carry those Big Macs and large fries and 36oz sodas in a bike basket…

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