Cycling Advocates to President: We’d Like Another Ray LaHood, Please

Next month, outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will speak at the National Bike Summit — he never misses one — and I’ll bet the standing ovation lasts 10 minutes. His support for biking and walking has been unprecedented at U.S. DOT. Now cyclists are worrying about who could replace him, and whether that person will bring the same zeal for livability and sustainable transportation.

These are some big shoes to fill. Photo: Life via Jim's Bike Blog

The field of rumored front-runners is narrowing. Reformers will be sorry to hear that there’s not much buzz about Janette Sadik-Khan outside of a select circle. Antonio Villaraigosa has apparently taken himself out of the running. Jennifer Granholm and Ed Rendell don’t think they’re viable candidates. The name that keeps popping up is NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman, who has a lot of experience with plane and train crashes but not as much with biking and walking. Then again, neither did LaHood when he took the job.

To nudge President Obama toward a pick with a love of two-wheeled transport, 10 bicycling leaders sent the following letter Friday:

Dear President Obama:

Four years ago, you surprised many people by appointing Ray LaHood to be your Secretary of Transportation. On behalf of the entire bicycling community, we want to thank you for the surprise: Secretary LaHood’s support for sustainable and livable communities has been refreshing, wholehearted, and has made a real difference in the lives of people and communities across the nation.

We sincerely hope his tenure – and his legacy – is just the start of a new era of transportation policy that embraces all modes of transportation equally and ensures that transportation is more than just an end in itself. We hope your next appointment to this critical position:

  • continues the extraordinary collaboration between DOT, EPA, and HUD, and even extends this multi-disciplinary approach to include health and energy agencies
  • builds on the remarkable success of the TIGER program in getting more funds directly into the hands of local government entities, where smarter, more equitable and inclusive community development projects emerge, and
  • responds to the clear need for real transportation choices and options to be available to all in our communities.

We have obviously enjoyed Secretary LaHood’s willingness to champion bicycling and walking issues and urge you to appoint a successor who will continue this work. It is no coincidence that bicycling has enjoyed a renaissance in communities across the country in the past four years which is good for individuals, communities, and the entire nation – and that the next Secretary of Transportation has an extraordinary opportunity to build on this foundation. Investing in better bicycling and walking infrastructure and safety is extremely cost-effective, has benefits that extend far beyond the transportation sector, and we believe our communities are poised on the verge of a real shift to nonmotorized transportation.

Finally, we urge you to pick a transportation secretary who will continue to provide leadership in the fight against distracted and aggressive driving, which affects every traveler on our nation’s roads. While we are delighted to see the overall decline on traffic fatalities over the past four years, we are disappointed and concerned that bicyclists and pedestrians make up an increasing share of the total – up from 12% to 15% of fatalities – and that the numbers are increasing in real terms. We believe the next Secretary of Transportation must prioritize the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists – those people outside cars – as a matter of urgency.

We are excited about the opportunities ahead of us and look forward to working closely with your next Secretary of Transportation to increasing bicycling and the safety of bicyclists over the next four years.

Yours sincerely
Randy Neufeld, President, America Bikes
Jim Sayer, Executive Director, Adventure Cycling Association
Jeff Miller, President/CEO, Alliance for Biking and Walking
Kit Keller, Executive Director, Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals
Tim Blumenthal, President, Bikes Belong
Mike Van Able, President, International Mountain Bicycling Association
Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists
Mark Plotz, Program Director, National Center for Biking and Walking
Roger Millar, Director, National Complete Streets Coalition, Smart Growth America
Deb Hubsmith, Executive Director, Safe Routes to School National Partnership