Foxx: New U.S. DOT Bike/Ped Initiative “Critical to Future of the Country”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx just announced to the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh that the department is “putting together the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative U.S. DOT has ever put forward on bike/ped issues.” He said the initiative “is critical to the future of the country.”

Photo: Wikipedia

The top priority, he said, will be closing gaps in walking and biking networks where “even if people are following the rules, the risk of a crash is too high.” He said dangerous street conditions are especially severe in low-income communities, where pedestrians are killed at twice the rate as in high-income areas, often because they lack sidewalks, lighting, and safe places to cross the street. He noted that when he was mayor of Charlotte, a child was hit by a driver because the road he was walking on with his mother had no sidewalk, and overgrown bushes pushed them into the street.

In its announcement today, U.S. DOT noted that pedestrian and cyclist deaths have been rising faster than overall traffic fatalities since 2009.

As Foxx often mentions when discussing street safety issues, he himself has been the victim of a crash. He was hit by a right-turning driver while jogging one morning during his first term as mayor.

As part of the initiative, U.S. DOT just wrapped up bike/ped assessments in Boston, Fort Worth, and Lansing, Michigan. They’ll be leading similar assessments in every state in the country.

Without going into detail, Foxx also said the department plans “to re-examine our policies and practices that without intending to do so have occasionally resulted in road designs that shut out people on foot and on bicycle.” Certainly, there is a wide variety of federal transportation policies and practices that warrant examination on that front.

U.S. DOT also has a variety of tools it’s releasing. The department’s PedSafe website is already up and running, though it appears to be underutilized. It lets you enter information about a particular safety problem at a street or intersection, and it will then supply a toolbox of possible improvements to address those issues. The department is currently in the process of updating a parallel site called BikeSafe.

The department is also releasing a road diet guide, an environmental justice handbook, and a cycle track design guide (more on that later). These steps are meant to emphasize “design flexibility” — urging planners and engineers to think beyond the bounds of old, conservative guidance on bike/ped designs.

“We’re really trying to show leadership on these kind of design issues and get out in front of them,” Dan Goodman of the FHWA’s livability team told a panel at Pro-Walk Pro-Bike yesterday.

The initiative is a welcome development and a sign that Foxx intends to follow through on earlier hints that he plans to make pedestrian and bike safety his signature issue, just as his predecessor, Ray LaHood, made distracted driving his.

As always, not every branch of U.S. DOT is operating along the same principles. The bike/ped announcement comes the day after the department announced that it was granting a $950 million TIFIA loan to a project called the “I-4 Ultimate” — the reconstruction and widening of 21 miles of Interstate 4 in metropolitan Orlando to “relieve congestion.” 

  • Let’s hope that this is more than just lip service and that he follows through. And that the outcomes are much closer to the best practices of Dutch bicycle and pedestrian design rather than our current support of designs that engineers in The Netherlands and elsewhere have tried and found dangerous.

  • Kevin Love

    “The department is also releasing a… cycle track design guide (more on that later).”

    One more re-invention of the wheel that will undoubtedly get significant items dangerously wrong. The Dutch CROW bicycle traffic design manual is the recognized world-class design standard. With a proven track record of effectiveness.

    I shudder to think about what will happen when a bunch of comparative amateurs get together to write a cycle track design guide, Amateurs without the training, education, skills and experience of the Dutch bicycle traffic design engineers that put together the proven effective CROW manual.

    RTFM!

    Here it is:

    http://www.crow.nl/publicaties/design-manual-for-bicycle-traffic

  • BBnet3000

    It seems like US cycling planners are fond of saying that there’s a “learning curve” and that we need to go through a process of “trial and error”. The problem is that this experimentation has already been done!

    As a result we are building, at best, 40 year old Dutch designs and learning the same lessons (with a cost in blood and inconvenience) that they already learned decades ago.

    The Dutch have what they have because their cycling planners have the mindset and practices of traffic engineers. The difference is that they’ve used this for cycling for nearly a half century now, while in the US we have used these practices for moving cars.

  • Scott Sanderson

    Sounds promising, I hope he follows through!

  • Here is the problem:
    [1] Many Americans tend to believe research only when it comes from the US and not from other countries. REALITY CHECK: Most transportation and infrastructure research from other countries is far more revealing and relevant to modern attitudes.
    [2] Car culture of America. Car culture dictates that if you don’t have a vehicle in the US your poor and less valued. REALITY CHECK: A good chunk (I believe at least 20%) of Americans no longer own a vehicle. Also most people don’t “own” anymore they are “leased”. Big difference.
    [3] Cycling Culture of America: Cycling culture in America is that of cycling is only something children do and doing it as an adult must make you a fanatic. REALITY CHECK: More and more Americans are cycling to work because its super cheap. Also research has shown that more Americans would cycle to work if the infrastructure was there that provided a safe environment.
    [4] More people would like more cycling infrastructure but they don’t want to pay for it. REALITY CHECK: If you build it, someone has to pay for it.

  • Very true. A good blog to read that helps to honestly evaluate cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands is:

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/

    His video about how cycling in America is from the Dutch perspective is worth a laugh or two to watch:

    Anyway I totally agree that we shouldn’t have to learn the same lessons butt the fact is that is just the…………..”American Way”. And that is very unfortunate, however the more people who advocate for cycling infrastructure the bigger difference we can make.

  • Agreed! If this is more than just “lip service” I’m thrilled however, I am of the opinion……”when I see it, I’ll believe it.”

  • Here is the video of U.S. DOT Secretary Foxx:

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