So while you can gripe about the government's ability to spend money well, in this case it does seem to be having the intended effect--since 1995, walking trips have increased by over 100%, and bike trips have increased by 700 million a year, a rise of 20%. 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 non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects.
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.