It was hot, sizzling hot, and summertime-in-DC humid. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
I'm talking about yesterday's dedication festivities to inaugurate Washington, DC's newest bicycle lanes. And these are not just any bike lanes. These lanes run right down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue--America's Main Street--from the White House to the U.S. Capitol.
I see them as another milestone in Washington's steady march to become a model livable American community.
All across America, people are asking for more choices, more options to get from one place to another. Some of them can't afford cars. Some are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. Some want exercise or to be out of doors, but don't feel safe.
For too long, walking and biking have been overlooked as important forms of transportation. Now we see local governments answering that call by creating new opportunities for people to take advantage of streetcars, transit, walking, and bike lanes. They’re taking the needs of pedestrians and cyclists into account like never before.
As DC Mayor Adrian Fenty said, ""This country is finally catching up to our European and other neighbors in their commitment to bicycling."
But don’t get me wrong: There will always be cars and trucks on America's roadways--and DOT will always be committed to keeping America’s roadways the safest and most efficient in the world. Mayor Fenty made this point effectively, saying, "We believe there is room here for everyone--on four wheels, two wheels and on foot."
Sidewalks and bike lanes are also relatively inexpensive to create. And, despite their visibility and positive impact, these projects are using a very small part of our nation's transportation spending. They are simply part of a cleaner, greener future in American transportation.
DC's new bike lanes are also a tribute to the hard work of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and DC's Transportation Director Gabe Klein. As Rep. Earl Blumenauer noted yesterday, "This project started as I was cycling to last year’s National Bike Summit, and only 15 months later they are now a reality."
If you've ever tried to take a transportation infrastructure idea and navigate it through planning, approval, design, and implementation, you know it takes leadership and commitment to see a project to completion so quickly. And for that we need to thank Mayor Fenty, Director Klein, DC Bike Program Director Jim Sebastian, and a team of dedicated DDOT employees.
We should also thank two of our nation's most effective bicycling advocates, Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Jim Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, both of whom joined us in yesterday's heat to celebrate these new lanes--in their work shirts and ties, along with helmets, gloves, and ankle straps to keep their pants out of their bike chains.
In his remarks, Rep. Blumenauer made a terrific point, reminding motorists that, "A bike is really a driver's best friend. Because every bike you see cruising down one of these lanes is one less car to compete with in traffic, one less bit of congestion, one less driver buying fuel."
But it was Rep. Oberstar who may have had the best line of the day: "Bicyclists aren't burning hydrocarbons; we're burning carbohydrates!"