"We also have to make a special effort to look out for modes of transportation that, traditionally, don't get much attention." With these words, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, yesterday offered a glimmer of hope that the nation's transportation policy may better address the millions of Americans who bike and walk as well as drive a car or use transit.
Speaking at the annual Transportation Research Board Lunch in Washington, D.C. yesterday, Sec. Foxx told a personal story that too many people can, unfortunately, relate to: being hit by a car while travelling by two feet instead of four wheels. The former Mayor of Charlotte, N.C., who oversaw an improved bike landscape that boosted the livability and popularity of the city during his tenure, is now pledging to bring those lessons learned to his new gig as America's transportation chief.
"You can expect me to bring more attention to pedestrian and bicycle safety during my time as Secretary," Foxx said at the lunch.
Much of Foxx's speech outlined a vision that is shared by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and our peers:
- We need to get creative with funding worthwhile projects. Public/private partnerships and flexible loans for less-expensive bike/ped projects can get work done quickly and efficiently.
- The key is integration. As Foxx notes, people aren't siloed into one transportation mode. People drive a car to the train station, or ride a bike from the metro, where they walk to their home or office. Biking and walking infrastructure is the missing link in our transportation landscape at the moment, and is needed to achieve the integration Sec. Foxx refers to.
- Equal opportunity. "My entire life, I lived 10 minutes from downtown - and I could never get a pizza delivered," Foxx said. "We shouldn't be dividing communities like that in America. Transportation shouldn't just get us places better - it should make places better - and lives, too." In many communities, 40 percent of adult residents don't own a car. In these places, biking and walking pathways are the means by which we connect underserved neighborhoods to jobs, shops and services, and make communities everywhere healthier and more vibrant.
Foxx's speech came just one day after the United States House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure met to begin discussion of a new Transportation Bill - a discussion that included barely a mention of biking or walking. Committee members did, however, express a strong desire to find creative new ways to pay for a new and more efficient transportation system.
We hope that Foxx's comments, recognizing the fact that active transportation is a key part of a modern and dynamic America, filter their way into the Transportation Bill conversation over the coming months.