Under Pressure, AASHTO Withdraws Objection to Stronger Bike-Ped Rules

The Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is withdrawing its opposition to an important federal policy change that puts cyclists and pedestrians on a more equal footing with motorists.

Should infrastructure like bike lanes come standard on transportation projects that receive federal funding? AASHTO is reconsidering its opposition to an FHWA policy that makes accommodating bikes and pedestrians the rule, not the exception. Photo: Agit Corp

Active transportation groups were outraged earlier this month when AASHTO requested that the FHWA revert to an old standard that required state DOTs show only that “due consideration” had been given to the needs of cyclists and pedestrians in federally financed transportation projects. A newer requirement increased the standard to “due accommodation,” shifting the burden on transportation agencies to demonstrate that extreme circumstances prevent the inclusion of bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

In his statement Friday, AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley said the agency’s request was meant “to streamline the effort and paperwork required to justify why bicycle or pedestrian facilities may or may not be appropriate on a given federal aid project.” But he added that the group would withdraw the request in light of opposition that emerged after the League of American Bicyclists, this blog and other bike advocates took up the issue.

Horsley said that since that time several state DOT chiefs also came out against the request, including Matthew Garrett of the Oregon DOT.

“In response to the concerns expressed by several members of AASHTO’s Board of Directors, President [Susan] Martinovich has directed AASHTO for the time being to withdraw its request that FHWA rescind its guidance on the meaning of ‘due consideration’ of bicycle and pedestrian needs,” said Horsley. “This will give AASHTO an opportunity to meet with bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups on May 19 to discuss this issue.”

Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists is planning to attend the meeting. He says he’s glad AASHTO is warming to the idea that all transportation projects should begin with the idea of including bicycles and pedestrians in the plan “rather than ‘we’re not going to include bike stuff unless someone makes us.’”

Clarke said AASHTO’s backpedaling is an important demonstration of the collective power of bicycle and pedestrian advocates.

“I’m glad we called them on it,” he said. “I’m glad they heard a good deal of dissent.”