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Transportation Secretary Announces "Sea-Change" for American Transport: Bikes!

The much-admired Ray LaHood announces a new emphasis on better bike lanes.

Bike Lane

Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, has just announced a "sea-change" in American transit planning: As he writes on his blog, "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."

LaHood's announcement has been bubbling for some time: The DOT is already funding bike-lane initiatives in Philadelphia and Indianapolis, and LaHood, a darling among green-minded urban planners, has a penchant for dropping by bike conferences and getting everyone all fired up. But this latest news is backed by a set of eight guidelines, which will be sent to state DOT's 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.

Which frankly all sounds rather dull, but here's the important thing: LaHood, as Transportation Secretary, is essentially saying, "If you want federal DOT dollars, you better think more seriously about adding bike paths to the projects you propose."

The hope then is that communities adopt similar guidelines, and that these will be baked into new infrastructure proposals. It's a rather circuitous path—and comes far short of a mandate—but this is a crucial start. And when local city planners get with the program, they'll find a wealth of ideas out there—from bicycle highways to solar bike sheds to safer bike lanes.

[Via Planetizen]

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  • Aaron Houssian

    @Cameron You actually DO need bike lanes on most roads. Even if people were courteous and shared the road equally the bottom line is that many many roads in cities have high enough speed limits that sharing with bikes slows down traffic too much. I'm an American living in the Netherlands and they have bike lanes EVERYWHERE except in 30kph residential (YES the limit is 18.6mph) where it doesn't make any big difference. The other big advantage of having bike lanes is that you can prioritize bike lanes over motorized traffic. There are numerous places in my neighborhood here where I can MUCH more easily bike or walk to than drive to (and that's not even taking into consideration parking). The bike lanes go places where the cars cannot go.

    Personally though I wouldn't want to have to bike long distances next to a busy road. Luckily my 9 mile bike commute is 2/3 outside city limits.

  • Jack Beard

    Higher fuel and road use taxes are inevitable if we want to fix all the potholes and to also add the infrastructure for bike lanes, bike/walking paths, etc. I live in Germany, and such infrastructure exists here, but it does come at a cost. Higher road use taxes and fuel that costs twice as much as in the US. We even salt the bike paths in the winter so they can be used year-round in any weather.

  • Whys Alives

    Cameron, bike lanes aren't going to raise property values when there are still pot-holes in the road. And what's wrong with colored drinking fountains? I like violet. :)

  • Cameron Spitzer

    Bike lanes == livable communities == higher property values. Even right wing radio fans can understand that.
    You don't *really* need bike lanes, but the alternative is to retrain police and cyclists and other drivers to understand that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers, and the car drivers who menace them need to be charged and prosecuted and put in prison. Until that happens, driving is "separate but equal" and bike lanes are the civil rights equivalent of "colored" drinking fountains. In a nation that can't even bring itself to grant equal rights to women, cyclists are going to remain an underclass for a while. Bike lanes manifest that fact.

  • Whys Alives

    A nice idea, but with the current gutting of revenue my own community can't even fill all the pot-holes, let alone add bike lanes. At the end of the day funds will be used for motorized vehicles because that generates the greatest economic return and provides for fundamental transportation needs that bikes do not. You can't make a bulk delivery to "Big Box Mart" on a bicycle. In other words, motorized vehicles equals jobs. Bike lanes equal higher taxes.