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Support Secretary LaHood in his new policy elevating walking and biking

March 29, 2010

By now, you may have heard about Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s policy statement that encourages state and local government agencies to consider “walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.” At the National Bike Summit, Secretary LaHood said that bicyclists have, “a full partner in Ray LaHood.” Now it’s time for us to support him.  Since his statement earlier this month, there have already been several public attacks on biking, walking, and livability on Capitol Hill – against Secretary LaHood, the USDOT’s bike/ped policy, and its livability agenda.

  • Ohio Representative Steven LaTourette suggested that LaHood must be on drugs to believe biking and walking were equal modes of transportation.
  • Iowa Representative Latham suggested that “real transportation needs” were being swept aside when funding is spent on bicycling and walking. · Missouri Senator Kit Bond, at a hearing two weeks ago, asked LaHood, “When did it become the responsibility of the federal DOT to build sidewalks?”
  • Oklahoma senator and ranking republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe, criticized the Oberstar draft bill as having “focus[ed] very heavily on transit, bike paths, and sidewalks.”
  • Alaska Senator Mark Begich and South Dakota Senator John Thune questioned whether livability is applicable in rural areas.
  • Arizona Senator John McCain introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Authorization bill that would strip funding for bike parking facilities at airports.

We need to show Secretary LaHood and his critics that there is widespread support for USDOT’s bicycling and walking policy and for their livability agenda. Here are some actions that local biking and walking advocacy groups have already taken:

In support of the USDOT Policy:

  • In Lee County, Florida the Lee County MPO board unanimously passed a motion in support of the policy statement, and are now encouraging the Florida Department of Transportation to support it as well! BikeWalkLee has called upon state leaders—the governor, the legislature, and the secretary of transportation—to adopt this new federal policy statement as Florida policy and integrate it into the state’s policies, planning processes, and guidance documents.

In Response to Attacks:

  • In Cleveland, Ohio, advocacy groups and a local bike shop owner responded to Rep. LaTourette’s attacks by contacting the media, her customers, and LaTourette’s office.
  • The Iowa Bicycle Coalition ran a story about Rep. Latham’s remarks on bicycling and walking on their website, Twitter and Facebook pages, and sent an alert to members in his district.

These types of actions and responses reinforce to DOT that they have support from the public, and let elected officials know that we are listening.

When attacks happen in Washington, America Walks, America Bikes and the Alliance for Biking & Walking will keep local groups informed. In the meantime, please consider taking positive action to support Secretary LaHood and DOT’s new bicycle and pedestrian policy by asking your local city, MPO, and county agencies to declare their support for the DOT policy. Additionally, ask them to encourage your state DOT to sign on as well.

Lee County may be the first county in America to endorse this groundbreaking new policy. Help make sure that it is not the last!