Good meeting with the Complete Streets Task Force of the Smart Growth Partnership last night. Planners, MPOs, SGP, Broward Health Department, the University of Miami and others got to hear my spiel about open streets aka ciclovia recreativas aka Bike Miami Days. There are a lot of people in Broward that want this, and that’s exciting to hear, especially since they represent such diverse sectors. Bicycling is only one small part of them, but we support ‘Open Streets’ programs for a number of reasons:
1) ‘Open Streets’ allow people to see people on bicycles in all our diverse glory – motorists suddenly become pedestrians and see kids, the elderly, their neighbors and friends on bikes of all kinds. In short, it reminds people not on bicycles that those of us rolling are people, too.
2) And then, of course, the people not on bicycles want to give it a try. At Bike Miami Days, anyone can borrow a bike from Bike and Roll or BuddyBike for a half hour or so. That’s right people – that’s how we get ’em hooked. Put an stiff adult on a bright and shiny cruiser and suddenly, s/he morphs into a 6 year old with a huge grin wondering why the people in cars are in such a stressed out hurry! (shh…)
3) Complete Streets! The South Florida Bike Coalition believes that if more people were more involved in city planning, our streets would naturally evolve to welcome more and more people and all of our transportation options. When people get the chance to see and experience their streets in a whole new way, they become more informed and engaged stakeholders. They realize how much room there really is, how feasible bicycling and walking can be when the streets are safe for everyone. Participants in ‘Open Streets’ programs have a clearer understanding of both the potential and positivity of completing our streets.
At the meeting last night, we also talked about U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s revolutionary statements this past week. In case you missed it, Sec. LaHood announced at the National Bike Summit: “You have a full partner in Ray LaHood.” We were there! Then, on March 15, he issued USDOT’s new Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations, and with it a “seachange” in transportation policy. “People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”
Party!! I mean, seriously, this is real! Real enough to stress out some suits up on Capitol Hill big time. Some of the backlash as compiled by our friends at the Alliance for Biking & Walking:
- Ohio Representative Steven LaTourette suggested that LaHood must be on drugs to believe biking and walking were equal modes of transportation.
- Iowa Representative Latham suggested that “real transportation needs” were being swept aside when funding is spent on bicycling and walking.
- Missouri Senator Kit Bond, at a hearing two weeks ago, asked LaHood, “When did it become the responsibility of the federal DOT to build sidewalks?”
- Oklahoma senator and ranking republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe, criticized the Oberstar draft bill as having “focus[ed] very heavily on transit, bike paths, and sidewalks.”
- Alaska Senator Mark Begich and South Dakota Senator John Thune questioned whether livability is applicable in rural areas.
- Arizona Senator John McCain introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Authorization bill that would strip funding for bike parking facilities at airports.
Oh, poor, stressed out, old, white guys! Relax. Get some fresh air. Go ride a bicycle.
By the end of the meeting, I promised to write a letter to some of our representatives up in Washington and Tallahassee, too, supporting Ray LaHood’s statement and reminding them that we may be bicyclists, but we can still hear! (Okay, inside joke there).
I’ll post it up when I’m done and hope you’ll consider writing or calling your local reps and letting them know you bicycle and you vote! In the meantime, I recommend you go and do that because it is beautiful outside.
One last thing, I had the special luck of capping off my day in downtown Ft. Lauderdale with both the Broward AND Miami-Dade County MPO Bike/Ped Coordinators, Mark Horowitz and David Henderson. We talked about nerdy bicycle policy stuff, ways to expand bicycle safety education to both cyclists and motorists and the upcoming divorce of the Broward MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) from the County government. This is kind of a big deal. By the end of this August, the transportation planners and doers will no longer share office space with our county officials. What might this separation of policymaker and doer mean for Broward? I’m interested to find out and will surely write more about it soon. Kudos to Mr. Horowitz for being a Guinness drinker.