Begun, The Bike-Car Wars Have

The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.

Having spent most of his tenure chiding distracted drivers and hunting down demon-possessed Toyotas, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appears to be over the whole car thing. The policy statement above was just one element of his push to put bicycling and other car alternatives on an equal footing to cars in transportation planning, which he recently announced at the National Bike Summit.

The main points of LaHood’s pro-bike policy shift are explained in his “Recommended Actions”:

The DOT encourages States, local governments, professional associations, community organizations, public transportation agencies, and other government agencies, to adopt similar policy statements on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation as an indication of their commitment to accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians as an integral element of the transportation system. In support of this commitment, transportation agencies and local communities should go beyond minimum design standards and requirements to create safe, attractive, sustainable, accessible, and convenient bicycling and walking networks. Such actions should include:

  • Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes: The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance. Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design.
  • Ensuring that there are transportation choices for people of all ages and abilities, especially children: Pedestrian and bicycle facilities should meet accessibility requirements and provide safe, convenient, and interconnected transportation networks. For example, children should have safe and convenient options for walking or bicycling to school and parks. People who cannot or prefer not to drive should have safe and efficient transportation choices.
  • Going beyond minimum design standards: Transportation agencies are encouraged, when possible, to avoid designing walking and bicycling facilities to the minimum standards. For example, shared-use paths that have been designed to minimum width requirements will need retrofits as more people use them. It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility. Planning projects for the long-term should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities and not preclude the provision of future improvements.
  • Integrating bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on new, rehabilitated, and limited-access bridges: DOT encourages bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on bridge projects including facilities on limited-access bridges with connections to streets or paths.
  • Collecting data on walking and biking trips: The best way to improve transportation networks for any mode is to collect and analyze trip data to optimize investments. Walking and bicycling trip data for many communities are lacking. This data gap can be overcome by establishing routine collection of nonmotorized trip information. Communities that routinely collect walking and bicycling data are able to track trends and prioritize investments to ensure the success of new facilities. These data are also valuable in linking walking and bicycling with transit.
  • Setting mode share targets for walking and bicycling and tracking them over time: A byproduct of improved data collection is that communities can establish targets for increasing the percentage of trips made by walking and bicycling.
  • Removing snow from sidewalks and shared-use paths: Current maintenance provisions require pedestrian facilities built with Federal funds to be maintained in the same manner as other roadway assets. State Agencies have generally established levels of service on various routes especially as related to snow and ice events.
  • Improving nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects: Many transportation agencies spend most of their transportation funding on maintenance rather than on constructing new facilities. Transportation agencies should find ways to make facility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists during resurfacing and other maintenance projects.
  • As the authors of Carjacked, and others (especially here in bike-obsessed Portland) are quick to point out, America’s transportation policy has existed solely to serve cars since time immemorial. Including provisions for non-car transportation shouldn’t necessarily come at the expense of cars and road infrastructure. Especially considering how relatively few opportunities there are to replace regular car use with bicycles or the bus. Besides, LaHood can only veto major, federally-funded infrastructure programs if they fail to include provisions for cyclists and non-car transportation.

    Like so much that LaHood has done since taking office, this statement was highly symbolic and of little real consequence. But while LaHood grandstands, a larger problem looms: the president just signed legislation that will spend $19.5b to keep the federal highway trust fund solvent until 2011, at which point more tough choices will have to be made. Given LaHood’s publicly-stated preference for a vehicle-tracking, pay-per-mile taxation regime to rebuild the highway trust fund, some might see his wooing of anti-car (or, at least pro-bike) forces in a more sinister light. LaHood has made no secret of his desire to “ wean America off the automobile,” and and between pay-per-mile and the British government’s bag of anti-car tricks and taxes, he’s got a lot of options. But with the 2012 election picture looking far from perfect, LaHood will probably have to forgo any big political risks for more symbolic pronouncements like this one. Car fans can breath easy for a little while longer.

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    • Cinghiale Cinghiale on Mar 21, 2010
      "Especially considering how relatively few opportunities there are to replace regular car use with bicycles or the bus." This is a familiar (and tired) argument of the anti-bike set. In fact, 41% of trips taken by Americans are two miles or less, making them good candidates for using a bike instead of a car.

    • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Mar 22, 2010

      And especially when (many) people make job and residence location choices based on the assumption they will use cars for commuting. After making such choices, they claim they have no choice. The same people fail to elect politicians who will structure development to reduce car dependency and who hire staff who make the same failure. Europeans don't need showers when they cycle to work, and they do so in their work clothes. You don't need to pretend bike commuting is the Tour de France. Pedestrians are an unbelievable problem on bike paths. And the old saw about cyclists being habitual lawbreakers. This is typically thrown out by tunnel-vision motorists who are blinded by prejudice to the frequency by which motorists speed, don't stop for stop signs, signal improperly, tailgate, merge improperly, park illegally and on and on and on. Yet the motorists have the far more lethal vehicles and should bear a far greater onus to behave themselves. Far too high a proportion of North American motor vehicle use is unnecessary, and it translates into massive waste that drains private and public funds, and also has aspects that degrade quality of life.

    • Kurkosdr Someone should tell the Alfa Romeo people that they are a badge owned by a French company now.The main reason PSA bought FiatChrysler is that PSA has the technology to enter the luxury market but customers don't want a French luxury car for psychological/mindshare reasons. FiatChrysler has the opposite problem: they have lots of still-respected brands but not always the technology to make good cars. Not to say that if FCA has a good platform, it won't be used in a PSA car.In other words, if those Alfa Romeo buds think that they will remain a silo with their own bespoke platforms and exclusive sheet metal, they are in for a shock. This is just the start.
    • Arthur Dailey For the Hornet less expensive interior materials/finishings, decontent just a little, build it in North America and sell it for less and everyone should be happy with both the Dodge and the Alfa.
    • Bunkie I so wanted to love this car back in the day. At the time I owned a GT6+ and I was looking for something more modern. But, as they say, this car had *issues*. The first of which was the very high price premium for the V8. It was a several thousand dollar premium over the TR-7. The second was the absolutely awful fuel economy. That put me off the car and I bought a new RX-7 which, despite the thirsty rotary, still got better mileage and didn’t require premium fuel. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction because, two years later, I test-drove a leftover that had a $2,000 price cut. I don’t remember being impressed, the RX-7 had spoiled me with how easy it was to own. The TR-8 didn’t feel quick to me and it felt heavy. The first-gen RX was more in line with the idea of a light car that punched above its weight. I parted ways with both the GT6+ and the RX7 and, to this day, I miss them both.
    • Fred Where you going to build it? Even in Texas near Cat Springs they wanted to put up a country club for sport cars. People complained, mostly rich people who had weekend hobby farms. They said the noise would scare their cows. So they ended up in Dickinson, where they were more eager for development of any kind.
    • MaintenanceCosts I like the styling of this car inside and out, but not any of the powertrains. Give it the 4xe powertrain - or, better yet, a version of that powertrain with the 6-cylinder Hurricane - and I'd be very interested.