Posts Tagged ‘Active Transportation 2010’

Cities for Cycling: More Coverage

Monday, December 28th, 2009

We recently wrote about the NACTO Cities for Cycling project and its kickoff meeting in Washington DC earlier this month.

This meeting was actually about more than just this new project.

It was hosted by the Brookings Institute and featured Bruce Katz. Katz recently wrote the interesting article, The Detroit Project: A Plan for Solving America’s Greatest Urban Disaster. In DC, Katz spoke of the major upcoming debate on transportation policy. He emphasized the critical importance of advocates continuing to push non-motorized transportation during this period of change.

David Bryne

The next presenter was David Bryne, the front man of the Talking Heads. While he’s been cycling around New York since the 80s, he’s more recently become a bicycle advocate. The League of American Bicyclists summarized Bryne’s presentation.

Byrne began with a photo of Columbia, Md. where his elderly parents now live and are stranded due to the autocentric design of the community. He then went on to highlight some of his favorite books including: Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and The Timeless Way of Building. He continued with a photo diary of memorable scenes – both good and bad – of public spaces from his travels around the world on his beloved folding bike.

Bryne’s book, Bicycle Diaries does briefly recount his ride in Detroit. In a recent National Geographic Adventure article, Bryne’s listed Detroit among his eight favorite biking cities in the “Great rides where you least expect it” category.

So when speaking with him in DC after the event, I invited him to return to Detroit and provided our Detroit Greenways Brochure to spark his interest. We’ll see.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Our premier bicycle advocate in Congress spoke next and started with his standard question: How many people are stuck in traffic right now on their way to ride a stationary bike in a health club?

Blumenauer gave a brief timeline on bicycle advocacy. What was once considered “desireable” have become “important” and is transitioning to “urgent” and “critical.”

In conjunction with that transition, introduced his Active Community legislation for the upcoming transportation bill. The original push from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was for an Active Transportation 2010 program where 40 U.S. cities received $50 million over 6 years to increase biking and walking. Detroit applied for this as did Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. However, according to the congressman, that program smelled too much like earmarks and didn’t make it in the transportation bill.

His new Active Communities legislation would be a competitive $5 to $15 million grant program with a focus on mode shift — getting more people walking and biking.

Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan

The NYC DOT Commissioner presented next primarily on the Cities for Cycling project, much of which we’ve already covered.

Some additional Cities for Cycling goals we forgot to mention the first time include

  • Hosting workshops around the U.S. next year
  • Making sure the next MUTCD is designed for 21st century cities and not just highways
  • Streamline federal regulations for active transportation projects
  • Double active transportation funding

Khan also said that building for bicycles is a matter of customer service and that bikes lanes are a transformative change for cities which benefits more than just cyclsits.

Questions and Answers

A little Q & A followed the three presentations. One person asked if there was still opposition to active transportation.


New federal funding source for Active Transportation?

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Speaking about Detroit non-motorized issues with Congressman is reporting on new legislation being introduced in Congress next week.

U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) plans to introduce a new bill to Congress next week that would create a $2 billion grant program that would hasten investment in biking, walking, and other “active transportation” options.

Blumenauer’s office sent out a one pager and a PDF of the bill today, saying that the proposed legislation has already been vetted with national organizations and leaders. The bill would look to increase mode share for biking and walking through “concentrated funding for active transportation networks”. “It is time for the federal government to support communities’infrastructure investment,” the statement says.

This sounds much like the Active Transportation funding program Rails-to-Trails tried getting in to federal transportation bill. They were unsuccessful apparently because “it looked too much like earmarks.” The city of Detroit had submitted a $50 million request under this proposed program. That funding would have built 400-miles of bike lanes and countless miles of greenways.

This new legislation from Blumenauer’s office would be different in that it’s a competitive grant program (with a two-year application cycle). The grants would range from $5 to $15 million for five years.

Conveniently enough, $15 million was the estimated cost (in 2006) of adding 400 miles of bikes lanes across Detroit.

Next Tuesday is a Brookings/ National Association of City Transportation Officials bicycling event in Washington DC. Congressman Blumenauer is a guest speaker and may likely discuss this new funding opportunity. (Yes, David Bryne will be there as well. I’ll invite him to ride in Detroit again.)

Fortunately I was able to attend this event both as the Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and a media representative from this web site.

Learning about the event after registration had closed, I successfully made the following pitch:

Whether I can attend or not, I would suggest that bringing a Detroit perspective to the discussion would be invaluable. Detroit is not Portland or Chicago or New York. The city of Detroit has gained its high level of bike friendliness as residents (and their vehicles) have left. We are at our pre-WWI population levels with a post-WWII street infrastructure. Our 40 square miles of vacant/abandoned land provides unique challenges and tremendous opportunities for non-motorized transportation growth and designs.

Perhaps this New York Times op-ed provides a window into what we have in Detroit and in other Rust Belt communities.

But while the infrastructure is accommodating, the Motor City culture in many ways is not. Though it’s beginning to change, many still see bicycles as a last choice mode of transportation. We are exploring ways to turn that around.

Certainly, getting the funding to build 400 miles of bike lanes would be great, but how where would the money come from to maintain (e.g. repaint) them? It seems it will be all the more critical that we advocate for changes to SEMCOG’s Congrestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding formulas so make sustainable funding dollars available for any bicycle facilities we build.

Look for a follow up report after Tuesday.

National Bike Summit “Asks”

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

img_2187Liz from Continental Bikes asked the question “What legislation did you discuss with the representatives?”

In looking over the previous entries, it seems we never really answered that question. So here’s the list.

Complete Streets

Actually this is one topic we did cover fairly well.

Active Transportation 2010

In the current federal transportation bill, four U.S. cities received $25 million each to get more people chosing biking and walking over driving.?

The hope is to expand that pilot program to 50 cities in the next transportation bill due later this year. Three Michigan cities have applied for this program: Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Detroit. We encouraged our legislators to include these Michigan cities in the future transportation bill.

Detroit’s Active Transportation proposal was briefly discussed earlier.

Transportation Enhancements

The current transportation bill (and recent stimulus package) funds Transportation Enhancements which is largely responsible for funding biking facilities and trails. We want to see this program continued and increased the next transportation budget.

This was an easy program to talk about since there many great examples of how this funding has been used within each congressional district.

Recreational Trail Program

This program captures a portion of the fuel tax used by off-road vehicles (e.g. snowmobiles) and directs to state trails, including non-motorized trails. We advocated for increased funding for this program.

Multi-Modal Commuter Credit

This legislation fixes the hastily passed bike commuter bill, which is another topic we previously discussed briefly.

Clean TEA

This legislation would take some of the funds generated through a cap-and-trade greenhouse gas program to pay for alternative transportation infrastructure, including biking and walking. Whether or not the greenhouse gas legislation makes it to the President’s desk remains to be seen, but if it does, we want to make sure it helps promote more non-polluting transportation choices.

There’s additional information on Clean TEA?at StreetsBlog.

Wrapping up the National Bike Summit

Monday, March 16th, 2009
Mike Reuter, Todd Scott, Cullen Watkins

Mike Reuter, Todd Scott, Cullen Watkins

Here’s additional information from the National Bike Summit.

Bicycle Respect and Recognition

We reported earlier that Congressman Oberstar said, We need to make bicyclists a standard transportation mode by law. published more information on Oberstar’s initiative last week:

Today at the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C., Oberstar will meet with the country’s top bike lawyers to discuss the potential of a new legislative initiative to draft the country’s first piece of legal policy that would directly relate to the respect and recognition of bicycles as users of our roadways.

Portland bike lawyer Ray Thomas… describes the initiative as a way to create a federal law to ensure equitable treatment of people on bicycles who are involved in crashes. Too often, he says, drivers do not receive serious charges in collision cases. The way the system is set up now, police officers and prosecutors (for a variety of reasons) will often not even attempt to press serious charges against motorists.

Oberstar wants to fix the system so there’s a better chance that justice will be done.

A Plan for Circuit City Stores

One of the most interesting ideas I heard at the Summit was at an IMBA advocacy session. Sitting next to IMBA trail guru Rich Edwards, I began discussing potential indoor mountain bike facilities in Detroit.

Rich mentioned another more suburban opportunity.

567 Circuit City stores have closed around the U.S. These stores are large, well-lit, have concrete floors, heat, water, and very few uses — especially in this market.

One alternative idea is to make them into indoor dirt parks.

John Burke (right) holds a Detroit Gets Green pin

John Burke (right) holds a Detroit Gets Green pin

Trek Ride in Detroit

I attended the Summit with Mike Reuter and Cullen Watkins from American Cycle and Fitness. They invited me to a Trek dealer event at the Summit hosted by President John Burke.

After giving John a brief overview of what we’re achieving in Detroit, he offered to come to town this spring for an urban tour.

Detroit is 140 square miles with zero bike shops stocking new bikes on their floor.

Cyclists are Important Users

Ray LaHood, the Department of Transportation Secretary has a blog where he recently left comments on attending the National Bike Summit.

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of addressing the National Bike Summit. I was invited to speak as a member of the Obama administration, but I have been a supporter of bicycling for many years and was a member of the Congressional Bike Caucus when I was in Congress.

Still, I don’t think the League of American Bicyclists knew what to expect when they invited me to their summit.

I hope they were pleasantly surprised because I am committed to investing in programs that encourage bikes to coexist with other modes and to safely share our roads and bridges. And there’s strong support in Congress for these goals as well.

Secretary LaHood also noted his excitement for the Active Transportation pilot program. The city of Detroit has submitted a proposal for participating in this program under the next federal transportation bill.

National Bike Summit Breakfast: Day Three

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

img_2189Thursday began with a National Bike Summit breakfast. I took the opportunity to speak briefly with Congressman Earl Blumenauer about biking and walking in Detroit.

I didn’t need to provide much background.

He immediately noted how his cycling city roll-model Portland is different in that it’s a growing city, whereas cities like St. Louis, Detroit, and others are dealing with shrinking populations, jobs, vacant land, and more.

I spoke about the collective effort with the support of Mayor Cockrel to reinvent Detroit as a green city, where biking and walking are a strong component. I noted our non-motorized plan, greenways network vision, and our application for Active Transportation 2010 funding.

He added that we need to make sure our bike solutions at the federal level are not one-size-fits-all.

Although it seemed longer, it was perhaps only a minute of conversation. Still, it was one of the most rewarding minutes during my stint at this summit. It was very good to know that one of the primary congressional leaders in biking and walking advocacy was already on point with urban non-motorized perspectives outside of the Portland’s and Boulder’s of the world.

After our discuss, Congresssman Blumenauer addressed the entire group on his new Multimodal Commuter Credit legislation. It basically addresses some flaws in the current implementation of bike commuter tax credit and provides more flexibility.

Why was the bike commuter act flawed from the start? asked Blumenauer’s staffer Tyler Frisbee that question.

Frisbee said the reason is that it was passed as part of the financial bailout package, “instead of a more orderly process.”

We reported on this back in October. Blumenauer’s bike commuter bill was added to the bank bailout bill perhaps to garner his vote — it didn’t work. He voted against the bailout and the commuter language was flawed.

Fortunately the Congressman’s commited to correcting these flaws.