Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New DOT Policy is a Win with Cyclists

Last month Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a recent policy change with regards to bicycles which is now beginning to encounter a few roadblocks along the way. According to the DOT, the intent of the policy change is to "reflect the Department’s support for the development of fully integrated active transportation networks, and that the establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities" The policy goes onto recognize that walking and bicycling contribute to family-friendly communities, helps to reduce vehicle emissions and fuel use and also promotes physical activity and health. According to the Associated Press, the new policy is an extension of the Obama administration's livability initiative, which regards the creation of alternatives to driving – buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains, as well as biking and walking – as central to solving the nation's transportation woes.

Already opponents have balked at the idea calling the policy nonsensical, and a check of numerous blog posts reveal that many are concerned that this is  a replacement of motorized vehicles. But a quick review of the policy itself clearly states that is not the case, but that equal measure should be given to alternative means of transport. I applaud this effort. Driving through the many new subdivisions in Illinois and many new communities around the country, one thing that is noticed is that there are very few sidewalks along roads and very few bike paths if any at all. Walkers and cyclists are forced to battle for space with cars and trucks which in many times leads to not so safe encounters. Studies have shown that communities with sidewalks and biking paths show lower rates of obesity as people now have the option of walking if they so choose. I remember years ago in one suburban community where I lived, I had to get into the car to drive 2 minutes to the store because due to the lack of sidewalks, walking was not a safe option, and running outdoors outside of my complex grounds was simply out of the question.
Of course this brings up questions of funding and how to best manage that. Will bicycle licensing fees be imposed on cyclists as they are now applied to motorists? Who knows? Would that be fair? Why not? Whatever the case, many will agree with the policy’s stance that walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought when it comes to roadway design and that providing useful and safe means of transport for all is a good thing.

Check out the full article from the Associated Press:
Transportation's bicycle policy hits potholes

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