With all the attention last week focused on extending the surface transportation law and Federal Aviation Administration programs, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's announcement of a major policy change regarding the way bicyclists' needs are treated in the transportation planning seems to have received little notice.
"People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning," LaHood wrote on his Fast Lane blog March 15. "This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized. We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects." LaHood's blog post includes recommendations for how states and communities can accomplish this, such as "treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes" and "set a mode share target for walking and bicycling."
LaHood called the new policy a "sea change," but is it a good one? Should non-motorized modes of transportation be treated as equal to other modes, particularly when modes like driving and mass transit are at least partially, if not primarily, self-funded? Or is it the essence of DOT's evolving 21st-century mission to give people more mobility options that, according to LaHood, are relatively fast and inexpensive to build, are environmentally sustainable, reduce travel costs, improve safety and public health, and "reconnect citizens with their communities"?