U.S. DOT Secretary Gets a Message on Pedestrian Safety

We’ve got a fine sampling of content from the Streetsblog Network today.

First, Steve Davis at Transportation for America reports on the meeting T4A and several of its partners had with U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday. The meeting was to deliver a petition with more than 4,100 signatures gathered after last week’s release of the "Dangerous by Design" report on pedestrian fatalities:

4109914943_7e19f7184c.jpgU.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood with James Corless of Transportation for America and Barbara McCann of the National Complete Streets Coalition

With the petition and a copy of Dangerous by Design in front of him,
LaHood listened intently as T4 America’s James Corless and others
talked about the epidemic of preventable deaths — and what we can do to
turn the tide and keep pedestrians safe.

Secretary LaHood was hopeful that federal transportation policy can
better accommodate all users and keep them safe, and that now is the
right time to make that change.

“I think this Congress gets it now,” Secretary LaHood told us.
“Certainly in part because of advocates like you.” He acknowledged that
making the streets in our communities safe and accommodating for
everyone dovetails well with the Obama administration’s focus on
livability.

He stressed that safety is the top consideration for everything they
do at USDOT and urged T4 America to take the report directly to
Congress as they continue discussions on the full six-year
transportation bill. He also asked for more copies of Dangerous by
Design (on their way, Mr. Secretary!).

We’ll be keeping an eye on developments.

More from our members: Network Musings beings news of a proposed vehicle-miles-traveled tax in the Netherlands. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia reports on a proposed bike registration and ban on brakeless bikes in that city. And Hub and Spokes has a video about the impact of mandatory parking minimums.

  • It’s great that this meeting happened, and I hope that Secretary LaHood does all he can to decrease the number of deaths and injuries on US streets. But this term “complete” really bothers me, just like “safer”, “everyone” and so on… Language is a powerful thing. More on my blog.

  • Clutch J

    It’s fabulous to hear of LaHood’s receptiveness to complete streets. What a difference a good slogan makes!

  • Clutch J

    Todd,

    The negatives of the slogan are far outweighed by the positives, but I do acklnowedge the negatives. Namely, will complete streets’ emphasis on establishing rights of all roadways users (i.e, including motorists) hamper efforts to create car-free areas?

    In the end, I think the answer is no, for several reasons. One, the national focus is on federal legislation and the federal-aid program, and most road projects involving federal dollars are major roadways or highways that almost noone would dream of making car-free. Two, car-free is a local concept, and such projects are usually small-scale, even temporary, and done with local (not federal) funds. Three, there are exceptions to most complete streets policies; we normally worry about these as a possible means of excluding walking, bicyling or tranist facilities from projects, but in a certain context the exceptions could be used to deny access to autos.

    All-in-all, the startlingly positive implications associated with this simple, catchy slogan– in brief, that people who walk or bicycle (or take transit or drive) need to be fully considered in all aspects of transportation project development– dwarf any misgivings we might reasonably have over its potential misapplication.

  • OK, here I am, arguing with an anonymous person about absolutist language.

    Clutch, to your points:

    “One, the national focus is on federal legislation and the federal-aid program, and most road projects involving federal dollars are major roadways or highways that almost no one would dream of making car-free.”

    > SURE, the Complete Streets Act is only about federally-funded projects.

    “Two, car-free is a local concept, and such projects are usually small-scale, even temporary, and done with local (not federal) funds.”

    > I am not talking about temporary, because Complete Streets is not temporary. And why not Federal funds?

    “Three, there are exceptions to most complete streets policies; we normally worry about these as a possible means of excluding walking, bicyling or tranist facilities from projects, but in a certain context the exceptions could be used to deny access to autos.”

    > OK, sure, in theory, but from the slides on the National Complete Streets Coalition website, I see no intention of excluding automobiles. Some of the designs reduce lanes, examples, they say, of a “road diet”. But are these re-designs actually reducing automobile capacity, or were they just so “super sized” to begin with that it more of a situation of less food being ordered, and less wasted, but the same amount eaten?

    The slides show lots of mainly empty spaces, with more bike lanes and more greenery sometimes. I grew up in a suburb of L.A. where some streets had no demarcated walking space, but I know that sidewalks ghettos are not a solution.

    The website has claims about projected carbon savings as a result of “Completion”, but – unlike with automobile adverts – there is nothing to compare them to. They are totally abstract.

    So, I won’t change my position. “Complete Streets” is a lie and an obfuscation. If we need to wink a little to make things go forward in urban development than the “green” pandemic which perhaps has already peaked has left terrible scars and a permanently weakened immune system.

    Is it – more than anything else – just a make work program for landscape architects and contractors?

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