Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood: Getting It Right

Many of you have probably read or heard of Ray LaHood's commitment to walking and cycling as transportation as part of our national infrastructure planning. Not surprisingly, the trucking industry and a gaggle of Mr. LaHood's former Republican colleagues in Congress, one of whom speculated that LaHood was "on drugs", are dead set against anything beyond the automobile-driven status quo, but the Secretary makes good sense. Much like our national energy and financial systems quagmires, those who profit immensely from the current systems will come out with guns ablazin' (actually, they come out with "lobbyists aspendin' ", but you get the picture.) to protect their turf. The fact that LaHood is a former Republican Congressman appointed by a liberal Democrat makes his position seem all the more enlightened. Here are some of the key points of his stated aims:

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.*

That doesn't sound like somebody "on drugs" or in any way outrageous to me. Bike infrastructure is relatively inexpensive, requires little maintenance once constructed and is much longer lasting than motor highways, so what's the beef? Granted, few people currenly use bikes for transportation,  but lack of infrastructure and rider safety are huge limiters of opportunities for riders. In our age of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, a military that turns away droves of recruits simply because they are too damn fat, and energy dependence on people who use our dollars to wage war on us, our society obviously needs to embrace some cultural changes if we are to survive and prosper. In the big picture, this is a small step, but it is a step in the right direction.

Listen to a discussion at this link on NPR:


..and the a news article as it appeared here:



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