Thursday, April 15, 2010

Transportation Secretary Criticized For Bicycle Policy

Can anyone name any U.S. Transportation Secretaries throughout history? Me neither. Until now. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (pictured) has made a name for himself with not only political watchers but also everyday people, and particularly bicyclists, because of his stance on non-motorized transportation and transit.

Until now, the position of Transportation Secretary has been a pretty low-profile post. LaHood has raised awareness of it with his new bicycling policy, which says the government is going to give bicycling and walking the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money.

But while he's considered somewhat of a rockstar with bicycle, pedestrian, and transit advocates, some conservatives and many in the trucking and manufacturing industries consider LaHood a radical. One congressman even went so far as to suggest LaHood's new policy is a result of him being on drugs and asked if he thinks freight is going to be distributed between states by bicycle.

I found this article from the Associated Press about LaHood's situation pretty interesting. I can see both sides' points because of my position at Spokane Regional Transportation Council, but I feel there's a compromise that can be reached if everyone acts like an adult about it.


Michael said...

Most of the comments I've read that were opposed to LaHood's new policies were um... well... calling them incorrect would be an understatement...

SRTC Staff said...

But calling them immature would be right on? Yeah, I've seen some like that too. It's amazing to me that some adults will act like children in order to refute something they don't believe in or that threatens them. If they can't find a statistic to back up their beliefs, they just say something catty. I understand that trucking companies are worried this could hurt their business but instead of bad mouthing it- do something about it!

We have the owner of a trucking company on our Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). The guy is swamped because he owns his own business but makes the time to be a TAC member so that he can be part of the solution. For the record, he's not against bike lanes, paths, etc. He's actually pretty open to all of it, just doesn't want them next to each other because his drivers have had too many inexperienced bicycles swerve into the way of their trucks.

Jon Snyder said...

It's great to see people volunteering for the TAC. Kudos to the owner of the trucking company. Folks in the trucking industry should be thrilled by Lahood's support for active transportation. If they took a moment to think about it they might realize how these policies benefit them. Getting more folks walking, biking, and using transit reduces congestion, limits our dependence on foreign oil, and reduces road repair--things the freight industry certainly benefits from. And creating more specific bicycle routes, paths, lanes and grade separated trails just helps keeps freight and cyclists from having user conflicts when done right. Our problem in Spokane is that we haven't built out our bicycle network. We have poorly maintained bike lanes that often stop suddenly and don't offer proper connections. We don't have a complete streets ordinance yet that conceives of all users--bikes, pedestrians and transit users are an afterthought. We also need to educated not just drivers on how to act with cyclists in the road, but we also need vigorous education of cyclists, who can also operate erratically as well. We can address the issue of inexperienced cyclists, but refusing the build out our bike network is not the way to do it.

Ray Lahood rocks. It's nice to see someone in transportation with a firm eye on the future.