Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sea Change

On March 11, 2010, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signed a document called United States Department of Transportation Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations. A link to it is here.

Among several others, one of the document's "Recommended Actions" included:

Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes: The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance. Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design.

A recent AP article discusses reactions to this document, including that of Ohio Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette, who:

[s]uggested jokingly to a Transportation Department official that one explanation for the new policy is that the secretary's thinking has been clouded by drugs.

"Is that a typo?" LaTourette asked. "If it's not a typo, is there still mandatory drug testing at the department?"

I was going to blog about this when it happened last month, but excoriating a politician for an ignorant comment about bikes is so played out on this blog. Even when the Congressman accuses a Presidential Cabinet Member of being "on drugs," which is so lame it is offensive.

But, when I read the AP article from a few days ago, I decided to call LaTourette's office just to let them know how I felt about his comments. (You can too...his contact info is here). The staffer who answered the phone at his Washington office immediately got on the defensive, and re-assured me that the good Congressman is not against bikes, and that his comment was in response to LaHood suggesting that we spend more money on bike paths than on roads. I then pressed the BULLSHIT button and asked for a cite or link to this statement by LaHood (which of course does not exist). I was then put on hold for a while, then was told he couldn't find the quote. The staffer then admitted that LaTourette's "drugs" quote was in response to LaHood's recent policy statement referred to earlier in this post. Then he said something about bike paths around the area of I-271 and I-90 being dangerous. And that freeway projects provide for more jobs.

Isn't that, like, automobile welfare or something?

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