Putting Safety First: U.S. DOT Takes Major Step Forward to Prioritize Safety for Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Posted 09/15/14 by Leeann Sinpatanasakul in Policy

Photo © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy/Ada Hao

Last week, U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the department’s new plan to increase walking and biking and reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. The initiative seeks to improve safety by supporting better infrastructure for walking and bicycling, and providing research and tools for local governments and advocates. 

RTC, alongside other advocacy groups and trail users like you, has long promoted the importance of safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, especially through the creation of safer active-transportation networks. With this announcement from the U.S. DOT, the highest level of government is showing that it has received the message and has begun prioritizing safer networks for walking and biking.

We know the safest experiences are when pathways connect to form a continuous network, instead of when they end abruptly and users are forced to walk or bike alongside cars in the roadway. Physically separated from the road, trails provide the gold standard in terms of objective and perceived safety—and trail networks allow people to safely get to where they need to go. RTC and the Partnership for Active Transportation have consistently advocated for investments to build networks of trails, sidewalks and bike lanes that make our communities safer. 

We are pleased to hear that the U.S. DOT is stepping up its safety efforts by promoting networks and closing the gaps. In order to have safer communities, the U.S. DOT announced that it will first undertake walking and biking assessments in every state to understand the extent of safety needs. The agency also announced that it will update existing resource guides and issue new resources to assist designers, engineers and advocates when planning and constructing trails, sidewalks and bike lanes. 

Secretary Foxx’s announcement and the U.S. DOT’s new commitment to safety are important first steps, but without a financial commitment from Congress, state and local governments will not have the resources necessary to provide safe facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists. RTC will continue to work with members of Congress to see that state and local governments receive the funding they need to connect networks, provide specific solutions to improve safety and monitor safety performance. The U.S. DOT’s initiative provides us with a newly engaged federal partner. Working together with our local advocates and the U.S. DOT, we can work toward a world where pedestrian and bicyclist injuries are a thing of the past.

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