Ray LaHood doesn’t need to be convinced that biking and walking should be promoted as critical aspects of our transportation system. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has shown enthusiastic commitment to active transportation projects since he was appointed to his post. But the bike-ped champion was duly impressed in a meeting with bicycle and pedestrian advocates last week.
On Thursday, LaHood recapped the gathering that included board members of America Bikes. In the positive post, the Secretary celebrated and circulated the new data they presented. The first study, which came from the Political Economy Research Institute, concluded that bicycle and pedestrian projects provide more job creation than other road construction. The second, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that 67 percent of Americans support streets design that’s more conducive to active transportation.
“Putting the two studies together creates a powerful argument for continuing the Department of Transportation's support for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects,” LaHood wrote in the blog. “Even as these investments increase mobility, they also generate economic growth. And, people are demanding them for their communities.”
Jeff Miller, President/CEO at the Alliance for Biking & Walking, attended the meeting and said LaHood recognized the power of advocates on the ground, who are driving that shift in public — and political — opinion. “LaHood recognized right away the importance of our grassroots work and what our organizations do to make a difference,” Miller said. “He cited specifically the major victory we had with Representative LaTourette supporting Complete Streets, saying that such a 180-degree turnaround shows the power of the grassroots.”
But LaHood didn’t downplay the difficult days ahead, as Congress works on the next federal transportation bill in a tight, cost-cutting climate. “He said we’ve got our work cut out for us, but also reminded us that the President is still our ally and supports what we do,” Miller said. “He also said we have strong support in the Senate and, even if the House does something drastic, we have that firewall of the Senate and President. Though, that doesn’t mean shouldn’t work hard on the House!”
But even faced with a challenge on Capitol Hill, LaHood expressed confidence in bike-ped advocates. “Bicycle and pedestrian activists have been very successful at achieving valuable safety gains for their stakeholders. Now is the time for advocates of cycling and walking to get into gear once again,” LaHood wrote. “Armed with the powerful arguments of energy conservation, environmental and health benefits, public demand — and now job creation and economic development — I am confident they will succeed.”
Read LaHood’s entire post here.
Photo: Secretary Ray LaHood, left, with Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists (Fast Lane Blog)