Secretary Peters Says Bikes “Are Not Transportation”

peters.jpgWe’d expect this kind of thing from some people, but not U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters.  On PBS’ "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" this week, Peters stated that instead of raising taxes on gasoline to renew the nation’s sagging infrastructure, Congress should examine its spending priorities — including investments in bike paths and trails, which, Peters said, "are not transportation."

Some excerpts:

  • You know, I think Americans would be shocked to learn that only about 60 percent of the gas tax money that they pay today actually goes into highway and bridge construction. Much of it goes in many, many other areas.
  • There are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure.
  • Well, there’s about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails.

PBS has the full transcript, along with video of the interview.

ADDENDUM: A tipster sends along this link to a prescient STPP report from 2003, debunking the myth that bridges are in ill repair because of spending in "other areas":

Why has bridge safety declined in some states while it improves in others? Although the bridge program is designed to put federal dollars where they’re most needed, many states fail to take full advantage of the funding available to them. Overall, the states have spent only 73% of the bridge funding allocated by Congress over the last decade

Photo: FHWA

  • steve

    Quinn, you are in good company with plenty of other students who use bicycling as transportaton daily in New York. Here are some of them:

    Keep it up and ride safe!

  • JF

    This is a great letter, Quinn. I’d recommend sending it to your state assemblymember as well.

  • Dave

    Speaking of bikes and trains, in Metro-North-served areas, it’s not just a matter of culture and perception that people don’t combine the use of them, but also because Metro-North doesn’t allow bikes on trains at rush hour.

    CT has a new order of train cars in and there is still time to for Caltrain-style bike cars to be added to the order. I recently wrote Jodi Rell (CT governor) about this and encourage everyone else to do the same.

    Other than the usual arguments for encouraging bike use, you might want also to mention that bike cars on trains would help solve the critical problem of parking shortages at Metro-North stations (which is actually a major issue in the CT press).

  • Dave

    Speaking of bikes and trains in CT, Metro-North does not allow bikes on trains at rush hour, making their combination impossible for CT commuters.

    CT currently has an order in for new train cars and there is still time for adjustments to the order to made, particularly for Caltrain-style bike cars to be added. I have written to Jodi Rell and requested that this be done. I encourage you to do the same.

    Other than the usual arguments for bike use, you might want to mention that bike cars would help resolve the shortage of parking spaces at Metro-North stations (actually a big issue here in the press and in local politics).

  • Steve

    Sec. Peters reportely has responded to furor over her suggestion that bikes “are not transportation.” Here’s a verbatim transcription of her response:

    Thank you for your e-mail about the importance of bicycling and walking as a form of transportation. I share your interest in a safe, efficient multimodal transportation system. Your e-mail discussed comments I made during a recent interview regarding the importance of effectively prioritizing major transportation spending decisions. These comments were in no way intended as an indictment of bicycle and pedestrian investments broadly. Rather, they were part of a much larger critique of the processes by which investment decisions are increasingly being made at the Federal level. Too often, political influence and power are guiding transportation spending priorities, instead of merit, competition, data, and analysis.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation believes that bicyclists and pedestrians are legitimate and welcome users of our Nation’s transportation system. They are a healthy part of the solution to congestion in our urban areas. We also believe that States, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit agencies are in the best position to understand the unique needs of their own communities, which is why we have continued to strongly support broad eligibility under the Federal-aid program for a diverse mix of transportation investments, including bicycle and pedestrian transportation facilities.

    Programs that improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians are also eligible for Federal safety dollars. Although the number of bicyclist and pedestrian injuries and fatalities has dropped by 10 percent since 1994, fatalities have increased in the last 2 years, and this is not acceptable.

    Thank you again for voicing your opinion. I hope to continue to work with bicycling and pedestrian advocates as we face the challenges of meeting our country’s changing transportation needs.

    Mary Peters

    Here’s the link:

  • Tobe Holmes

    In reference to comment 29 by “sjt — August 20, 2007 @ 2:01 pm”

    It is time to get past the think that “mege-infrastructure” is solving our problems. Repair and maintenence is worthy however, it is silly to ignore the cycle… build a big road with public dollars to solve congestion …new private development takes advantage of infrastructure (as they should)…more congetion…new road…private investment…congestion……

    The way to solve this problem is multi modal trasit options with associated land use to inspire walkable and bike-able streets. Think out of the box– or better yet, take a vacation to Amsterdam or Beiging – then tell me the bicycle isn’t a form of transit.


The Awful Truth About the Transpo Bill’s Bike/Ped Loophole

In the immediate, panicked moments after the MAP-21 conference report was released, I missed some of the nuances of just how bad a deal this bill is for bike policy. Three things stand out: States can use their Transportation Alternatives (TA) money on anything they want. Bike/ped programs are facing anywhere from a 33 percent […]

Is Transpo Funding Fundamentally a PR Problem? Five Ex-DOT Chiefs Discuss

How can you convince Americans that transportation is important enough to invest in? That’s the question that brought together five former U.S. Transportation Secretaries this week at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. James Burnley was deputy secretary and then secretary under President Reagan. He took the position that “75 percent” of the public “gives […]

Mica Wants to Abandon Federal Commitment to Bike-Ped Funding

A few final notes before we all head home for the weekend… Jonathan Maus at BikePortland just brought our attention to a recent comment we wish House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) hadn’t made. As the Orlando Sentinel reported yesterday, Rep. Mica is making noises about “siphoning away” money for bike paths. The Sentinel says […]

How Will the Next Transpo Secretary Build on Ray LaHood’s Legacy?

He strung it out long enough, but Ray LaHood has finally announced that he’s resigning as Transportation Secretary. Speculation has been rampant for months about who could replace him, and now it kicks into high gear. Matt Yglesias captured the sentiments of many transportation advocates when he tweeted yesterday, “Ray LaHood was a surprisingly good DOT […]