Dispatch from D.C.
A mere day into National Bike Summit, the Cascade delegation has already seen some serious bike superheros take the stage. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (who's always a crowd-pleaser) opened up the summit. Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC Transportation Commissioner, gave us some eerily Seattle-relevant stories from the Big Apple. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) energized us. And Interior Secretary Ken Salazar connected the dots from bikeability and livability to natural area conservation.
What's been the prevailing message? With the next federal transportation bill uncertain after the change of the U.S. House, now's the time to emphasize the importance of current programs and funding sources, like Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School. We've also heard lots about jobs and the economy -- that acting on the simple solution of bicycling isn't an extra expense to American taxpayers, it's a way to save our country billions of dollars, grow a stable economy and take on major fiscal challenges like the alarming rise in health care costs related to inactivity.
And this is the ask: we'd like FHWA* to recognize these as national standards. We would like AASHTO** to do the same.... You don't have to wait for Washington to act, you can work to get this adopted in your states and in your cities.... so that when you want to install bike signals, so that when you want to install protected bike lanes, you don't have to hear "It's not in the MUTCD***."
Of course there were dozens of excellent break-out sessions, the 2011 Alliance for Biking and Walking advocacy awards party, stories and ideas shared with the other 800+ attendees and preparations for meetings with members of Congress on the hill tomorrow. I've vowed to find time in between a dozen meetings to take one of D.C.'s Capital Bike Share bikes on a spin on Pennsylvania Avenue's new bike lanes, too....
*FHWA: Federal Highway Administration.
**AASHTO: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
**MUTCD: Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, an influential guidebook for traffic engineers that some city transportation officials feel has not kept pace with innovative bicycle infrastructure developments.