Four years ago, in one of the first blog posts of my tenure as Secretary of Transportation--written after speaking at the 2009 National Bike Summit--I wrote that, "I don't think the League of American Bicyclists knew what to expect when they invited me to their summit."
In my remarks that night, I told them that bicyclists have a full partner in DOT for working toward livable communities. Well, last night was my fifth time addressing the League's National Bike Summit, and I think by now they know me pretty well.
Because over the years, that message has not changed: Bicyclists are important users of America's transportation system. In fact, with the increase in the number of Americans bicycling regularly for their transportation needs, it's even more true today.
And it's not just bicyclists' use of our nation's roadways, paths, and trails that makes them important. This year's summit theme is "Bicyclists Mean Business" for very good reason. Where bicycle-friendly infrastructure investments have been made, the economic dividends have been terrific.
Receiving a pretty nice parting gift from Commissioner Sadik-Khan,
with Bike League President Andy Clarke; photo courtesy The League
For example,as New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told attendees last night, where the city has invested in protected bike lanes, sales tax receipts have increased dramatically. And that means businesses along those routes are seeing increases in revenue.
Commissioner Sadik-Khan also told attendees that roads with bike lanes are significantly safer--and not just for bicyclists, but for all users of those roads. And that is good news because, in 2011, the number of bicyclists killed on American roads was up 11 percent.
So my particular message to the Bike Summit last night on safety was this: We can do better. We must do better. We will do better.
Now, it's time to take the bicycling renaissance to the next level. We need to make it clear to community leaders that a bike lane means more than just painting an extra stripe on the pavement.
As I wrote last week, DOT is going to develop a set of bike safety standards that helps protect the bicyclists who ride America's streets each day. We'll look at the NACTO guide, and we'll do the research needed to get this right.
That's why in the upcoming months, DOT will conduct two bicycle safety summits. We want to hear from experts in the industry, and we want to hear from the people who ride and walk our roads. We're going to see what works and what doesn't work.
And once we figure out what the best practices are, we're going to team up with the bicycling community to help ensure that wherever cities, towns, states, and counties are thinking about bikes, they'll be sure to implement those practices to keep all users of our roads as safe as possible.
As I told Bike Summit attendees last night, "We started this thing together, and we've come a long way. I will never forget what you’ve done; what you’ve done in your communities, your vision. What a ride...these four-and-a-half years. But we need your help to keep the momentum going as we tackle this safety challenge."
I know that DOT is up for the challenge, and I suspect that America's bike community is up for it, too.