U.S. DOT Moves Further Away from Evidence Based Public Policy With Statement on Bicycling

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is apparently abandoning all pretense to evidence-based public policy based on his recent initiative to put bicycling and walking on the same level as motorized transportation when considering federal funding priorities. According to the U.S. DOT policy statement (emphasis added):

“The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.”

But, how does this make sense when just 4.6 percent of commuters use transit, 2.4 percent walk, and 1.5% using “Other” (including bicycling)? Moreover, motorized transport has been the dominant form of urban transportation since before World War II!

Of course, the answer is ideological, not rational public policy. As this report from CNSNews shows:

“LaHood’s policy statement envisions the development of a transportation system in which people walk and bike for short distances and rely on mass transit for longer trips. “The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods,” said LaHood’s statement. “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.”

“On May 21, LaHood told reporters at the National Press Club that the “Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ his department had formed with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing—sometimes known as the “livability initiative”–was designed to “coerce” people out of their cars.

“Some in the highway-supporters motorist groups have been concerned by your livability initiative,” said the moderator at the National Press Club event. “Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?”

“It is a way to coerce people out of their cars,” said LaHood.

So much for evidence-based public policy.