The 70-degree weather here in Washington, DC, has many residents of our nation's capital thinking about spring. A quick look at area streets reveals many bicyclists and pedestrians reveling in this temporary reprieve from winter, but across America, millions of bicyclists and pedestrians use our country's streets year-round. And DOT wants to ensure that our transportation system continues to serve these users--as well as motorists, transit riders, air travelers, rail passengers, and shippers.
Fortunately, President Obama's proposed 2013 budget will allow the Federal Highway Administration to foster policies and investments that increase transportation choices including on-road and off-road facilities for bicycles, pedestrians, and people in wheelchairs; projects to promote safe routes for non-drivers; and programs that encourage walking and biking to schools and community centers.
These are part of DOT's Strategic Plan, which seeks increased access to convenient and affordable transportation choices for all Americans, regardless of their ability or desire to drive.
These streets work for everyone, photo courtesy of Complete Streets
First and foremost, these projects are about increasing safety.
In the 51 largest US cities in 2009, for example, 12.7 percent of all trips were on foot, but 26.9 percent of all traffic deaths were pedestrians. That means that pedestrians were significantly over-represented among traffic fatalities. It's no wonder that many more Americans have indicated they would walk or bike more, particularly for short trips, if the streets near them were safer. In fact, 73 percent of Americans feel they have no choice but to drive the amount they do.
Photo courtesy of Transportation For America
Many people think that walking and biking are only appropriate in urban areas, but the data tells us that simply isn't true. In many small towns and rural communities, the rates of walking and bicycling are often comparable or even higher than what you find in large cities. But rural roadways are less likely to have safety features that protect bicyclists and pedestrians. In a recent survey, rural Americans selected sidewalks as their communities' greatest transportation need.
Urban and rural, more than 200 communities across the country have established policies that promote complete streets. And that's why the Obama Administration has proposed a budget that supports the enhancements communities want.
Before and after, courtesy of Complete Streets
Now, there's also plenty to say about the environmental and health benefits of biking and walking projects; how bicyclists and pedestrians take cars off the road and decrease traffic congestion; and how investments in livable communities with complete streets pay tremendous dividends in economic development. These are very significant priorities, and we take them very seriously.
But I have always said that, at DOT, safety is our highest priority. And when we talk about federal support for bicycle and pedestrian improvements and Safe Routes to School, we are talking about safety--for you, for your children, for everyone on our roadways.