What a way to kick-off a weekend. Last Friday dozens of bicyclists rode down to DOT headquarters to present a letter of thanks and support for our recent policy giving bicycles and pedestrians a seat at the transportation table.
Now, as gratifying as that was, my response was simple: If we're going to be a Department of Transportation with a comprehensive approach, we need to promote biking and walking along with other modes of moving people and goods around.
But--and it's time we were all clear on this point--that does not take away from any other form of transportation.
Look, everyone has his or her own transportation priority. And for some, that transportation priority is tightly connected to earning a living, so the idea that investing in one form of transportation comes at the expense of another is not unimportant. I get that.
But, making walking and biking safer and more accessible is relatively inexpensive. For example, we could upgrade the entire 2,250 mile East Coast Greenway, a network of bike routes stretching all the way from Key West to Maine, for only one-fifth the cost of a single recent I-95 bridge over the Potomac.
We're really talking about a very small sliver of the transportation budget.
When I look around DOT, I see devoted federal workers doing their very best every single day to make all forms transportation in America more effective, more sustainable--and most importantly--safer. There are people working on protecting the lives and livelihoods of truckers. There are people working to help airline consumers and to keep aviation safe. There are people developing high-speed rail options. And yes, there are people here looking out for bikers and pedestrians.
Everyday, we're working on a multitude of ways to connect America more efficiently and more safely.
Some people want to ride their bikes to work or to other services. Some want their kids to have the opportunity to walk to school safely. These non-motorized ways of getting around are clearly more environmentally sustainable, and they lead to better health.
If we are going to be transportation leaders here at DOT, then we need to lead in all forms of transportation.
I'll be honest; I appreciate that those folks rode down to DOT on Friday to present me that letter. It's encouraging to me and to everyone at DOT.
When they write, "We believe a number of your recommended actions will foster livable communities and enable people to walk or bike routinely and provide more choices for the 50% of total trips that are fewer than three miles,” it tells me we're getting this stuff right.
When they honor the policy of DOT, they honor the many people who have worked for a long time developing that policy and making sure that biking and walking are key parts of what we do.
So, on behalf of everyone at DOT, we sincerely appreciate that these groups and individuals took the time out of their day to say "Thanks." I think it was a great way to start the summer.