“We’re a Highway Department, Not a Bicycle Department”

The anecdote we’re about to relay happened in St. Louis County, but it could have occurred in almost any community between New York and Portland. Alex Ihnen at NextSTL caught local transportation officials admitting what generally goes unspoken:

Here's a drawing of the highway that the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic want to build, because they're "not a bicycle department." Image: ##http://nextstl.com/transportation/we-re-a-highway-department-we-re-not-a-bicycle-department-the-south-county-connector##NextSTL##

“We’re a highway department; we’re not a bicycle department.” This is how a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic decided to deride opposition to the proposed South County Connector project. The statement, offered to reporter Michael Calhoun of KMOX, is both revealing and a display of stunning ignorance.

There is no bicycle department in St. Louis County, nor a pedestrian department, nor a quality of life department, though there should be. The Department of Highways and Traffic, however, does exist within an environment that includes these unformalized concerns. Nearly every cyclist is also a motorist. Nearly every pedestrian also travels in a car. The idea that a highway is a highway, nothing more and nothing less, insulated from other concerns is myopic, dysfunctional and untrue.

The statement above reveals that not only is there not a “bicycle department,” but that the Department of Highways and Traffic will refuse to acknowledge the voices of those who it would derogatorily label as such. In its espoused worldview, municipalities and concerns other than level of service (for cars) and traffic throughput are obstacles to be first avoided, then dismissed and likely next attacked.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reconnecting America discusses the connections between transportation, neighborhood form, and the obesity epidemic. Greater Greater Washington considers whether DC should prioritize projects that help people access downtown or travel between neighborhoods. And Exit 133 explains why recycling can work better in compact, urban areas.


Notoriously Hostile St. Louis County Poised to Adopt Complete Streets

When it comes to safe streets, St. Louis County has often embodied the old guard mentality. It was county Department of Highways and Traffic spokesperson David Wrone who won our “Motor Mouths” Competition last year for his startlingly dismissive statements to bike advocates, such as: “We’re a highway department, not a bicycle department.” But here’s […]

Highway Revolts Break Out Across the Midwest

The evolution of state and regional transportation agencies is painfully slow in places like Missouri and Ohio, where officials are plowing ahead with pricey highway projects conceived of decades ago. But plenty of Midwesterners have different ideas for the future of their communities, and they aren’t shy about speaking up. One after another, residents of […]

St. Louis County’s David Wrone Is Our Champion Motor Mouth!

Sometimes public officials say regrettable things. But few of them display the flagrant disregard for part of their constituency that St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic spokesperson David Wrone has. Wrone was the runaway winner in our recent “Motor Mouths” competition to find the most clueless statement from a transportation official, by demonstrating […]