Posts Tagged ‘Earl Blumenauer’

Moving Beyond the Automobile: Biking

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

StreetFilms has posted another really interesting video (below) showing improved bicycling infrastructure in cities like Portland, New York, and San Francisco. These cities have made huge investments in bike lanes, and now physically separated bike lanes. The result has been a large increase in choosing to bike for transportation.

One great quote from Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

It’s important that people have choices. They shouldn’t have to burn a gallon of gas to get a gallon of milk. Half of the trips that are taken everyday in America are within 20 minutes on a bike. A quarter of them are a 20 minute walk.

National Bike Summit: a Detroit perspective

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The 10th National Bike Summit in Washington DC was last week. This three day event was a great opportunity to learn the latest on bike advocacy issues, lobby Congress, and network with peers.

I was attending this wearing a two main MTGA hats: Detroit Greenways Coordinator and Michigan Airline Trail Ambassador.

My highlight was Thursday morning. We had a group breakfast for last minute legislative updates and some cheerleading prior to our Congressional office visits. I was waiting behind this older gentleman for coffee. Being a bit impatient, I asked if I could cut in front. He poured my coffee and I said “Thanks”. It was then that I realized Congressman James Oberstar — one of the key bike supporters in DC and chair of the House Transportation committee — had just poured my coffee.

It was going to be a great day!


Secretary LaHood and US DOT 2010 goals

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is back in Detroit today for the auto show.

He recently listed what the US DOT had in the works for this year, including (emphasis ours):

More safety: I am not about to lay down on this; whether it’s distracted driving, impaired driving, or driving unprotected by seat belts, expect to see more from us on making our roadways safer for everyone.

More livability, sustainability: …in 2010 the TIGER grants we award will include as criteria the project’s contribution to sustainability and livability. Also in 2010, the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities of DOT-HUD-EPA will continue to align our efforts to promote the Three E’s of economic development, environmental protection, and equitable access to transportation.

Making roadways safe for all users… More livability… More sustainability… These goals all favor bike friendly transportation projects.

Now if only we could Metro Detroit state, county, and local governments working on the same. DOT’s emphasis on livability might force Metro Detroit governments to progress beyond post-WWII concepts of transportation and into the 21st century.

And in conjunction with this new federal emphasis, the House created the Livable Communities Task Force this past fall.

Every community in America — regardless of its size, geographic location, demographic composition, or economic base — aspires to become a place where families are safe, enjoy personal and environmental health, can select from a range of housing and transportation choices, and have access to educational and economic opportunities. These are the building blocks of livable communities.

The Livable Communities Task Force recognizes that federal policies — from transportation to tax incentives to environmental regulations and everything in between — have a profound effect on the livability of communities. This Task Force seeks to identify the ways in which the federal government can affect community livability and improve Americans’ quality of life. This includes reducing the nation’s dependence on oil, protecting the environment, improving public health and investing in housing and transportation projects that create jobs and give people more commuting choices.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer chairs the task force of 20 members, but unfortunately none are from Michigan.

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.