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March 17, 2010

DOT Wants You To Get On Your Bike

This post was written by Ann Mesnikoff, director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. It is also cross-posted on the Climate Crossroads Green Transportation Group.

It is a beautiful spring day in DC - perfect for biking (and walking) and a perfect day to applaud U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood's new policy on biking. Secretary LaHood blogged an entry called "My view from atop the table and the National Bike Summit."

LaHood states that "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 provides these new recommendations for state DOTs 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.
Interestingly enough, just last week, the Washington Post featured a story on bike lines soon to run down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue - the path the President strolls down on inauguration day. This is part of DC's effort to add to its existing 45 miles of bike lanes (on 1300 miles of streets). And to help you plan your biking route in DC and other places, Google just added handy bike (and walk) route options to its Google maps site.

For a country addicted to oil - Americans consume some nine million barrels of oil every day and travel nearly three trillion miles every year- devoting more attention to making biking and walking a safe and a viable option for getting around is long overdue. This also comes as interest in bike commuting is on the rise - as noted in Sierra Magazine, 720,000 Americans commuted to work by bike in 2008 - 43 percent more than in 2000. Not everyone will bike commute, but failing to invest in the infrastructure to make it choice is bad policy. LaHood's recommendations are a huge lift of zero carbon and non-oil dependent transportation.

(You can also read more about a DOT grant that is helping the Philadelphia area become more bike friendly in this Green Transportation blog post.)

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