Sizing up the Next US Secretary of Transportation

Margo Pedroso is deputy director at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. This post was cross-posted from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership blog.

Less than a month ago, President Obama announced that his choice for the next US Secretary of Transportation was Anthony Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, NC.  Based on his work in Charlotte and his remarks about transportation, we are hopeful about his potential to carry forward Secretary LaHood’s leadership on bicycling, walking and Safe Routes to School.

Incoming Secretary of Transportation
Anthony Foxx. Image: Weldon Weaver

As mayor and as a city councilor, Foxx oversaw the construction of road diets and sidewalks, led the adoption of a Complete Streets Policy, advocated for a smart growth approach to land use and transportation, and supported the Healthy Children Healthy Families program to reduce childhood obesity. He is also known for his work on expanding Charlotte’s light rail system and working to establish a streetcar system.

Mayor Foxx’s nomination is moving quickly.  On Wednesday, May 22, the Senate Commerce Committee held a confirmation hearing for Foxx.  In his opening statement, Foxx talked about how important his perspective as a mayor is and that he understands that smart investments in transportation can enhance quality of life and reverse economic decline.  He noted that his mother and grandmother were schoolteachers and that he rode the local bus to his first job as a teenager.  In several responses to questions, Foxx emphasized that state and local communities understand the importance of multi-modal transportation approaches. In speaking about his experience in Charlotte, Foxx indicated that they prioritized transportation projects that eased mobility challenges, created connections to jobs, and leveraged the infrastructure that was already in place. 

The hearing went very smoothly, with Senators on both sides of the aisle expressing support for the nomination.  Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), the chair of the committee, even remarked that he believes that Mayor Foxx will “ride the fast rail right into the Secretaryship.”  It is likely the full Senate will take up the nomination in early June, meaning we will have a new Secretary of Transportation very soon.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has reached out to Mayor Foxx to indicate our support for his nomination, and to recommend steps he could take to advance Safe Routes to School and livable communities.  Assuming he is confirmed, we would like to see Secretary Foxx undertake the following in his first 100 days:

  • Issue supportive guidance for the Transportation Alternative program and encourage states and MPOs to spend existing SAFETEA-LU Safe Routes to School funds and the new Transportation Alternatives dollars promptly;
  • Establish a safety performance measure for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries to increase investments in bicycle and pedestrian safety;
  • Visit Safe Routes to School projects and partner with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative;
  • Encourage states to focus transportation investments in low-income communities; and
  • Hold two safety summits on walking.

We congratulate Mayor Foxx for his outstanding leadership in Charlotte, and look forward to working with him as the next Secretary of Transportation.

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Life in the Green Lane

Jay Walljasper writes, speaks and consults frequently about biking and other ways to improve our communities. This post was cross-posted from the People for Bikes blog

Green lanes are next-generation protected bike lanes, and they are popping up all over the U.S.

How to describe your first time in a green lane? There’s nothing quite like it. 

For me it happened on a business trip to Copenhagen. I saw bikes everywhere, beginning with the taxi ride from the airport where I spotted business executives toting briefcases on bikes, wanna-be fashion models wearing high heels on bikes, kids heading to school on bikes, parents pedaling toddlers to daycare on bikes, old folks chatting to one another on bikes.

How do they do it, I wondered? I was a seasoned bicyclist who rode every day for commuting and recreation yet still felt tense wheeling down busy city streets. These riders looked completely at ease, even in the midst of morning rush hour with cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles all around them. I even saw one guy smoking a cigarette on a bike and others absorbed in phone conversations.

Then I looked down and noticed that the bike lane was separated from motor vehicles by a divider. So that’s how they do it! I couldn’t wait to try it myself.

Cycletracks invite riders of all abilities in Copenhagen.

The next day I ducked out of a meeting, rented a bike at nearby shop and set forth to explore Copenhagen on two wheels. After pedaling just a block, I thought “Wow!” and began giggling. This was an entirely new experience in biking-- almost like the exhilaration of riding without training wheels for the first time.

Liberated from fears of being sideswiped by motorists, I could take in the historic architecture and feel a part of the city’s teeming streetlife. There were even special traffic signals for two-wheelers, giving us a slight head start through crowded intersections. No wonder half of Copenhagen’s downtown commuters traveled by bike.

Cruising through the heart of the city, I realized protected bike lanes were good for everyone, not just bicyclists. Without them, pedestrians, motorists and bus riders would be engulfed by twice as much traffic. That, I figured, accounted for the calm courtesy I experienced from people behind the wheel.

We need something like that in the U.S., I dreamed as I rode my bike back home in Minneapolis. Impossible, people would tell me, special bike lanes are strictly a European thing that would never fit in our newer, auto-dominated cities. You’re selling America short, I answered. We are an enterprising nation, dedicated to innovations that improve our lives. If we can invent the Internet, we can make biking safe for everyone. 

Green Lanes in Chicago. 

And that’s exactly what’s happening right now. Green lanes are popping up from Miami to Long Beach, Austin to Chicago, including Minneapolis. [Note: Our Green Lane Project is leading the way in implementing these.] As I ride the new protected bike lanes across downtown on 1st Avenue North, I say “Wow!” and then giggle. I can appreciate the handsome old warehouses and enjoy the bustling streetlife. I notice people in suits and in high-fashion outfits on bikes, even some teenagers and older riders. It feels even more exhilarating than the first time Copenhagen, because it’s right here at home.

Washington, D.C.'s Pennsylvania Avenue green lane. 


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Videos: What Are the Best Ways to Attract More Women to Biking?

Carolyn Szczepanski is communications director at the League of American Bicyclists. This post was cross-posted from the League blog.

With so much energy around biking in the Bike Apple — and the imminent and exciting launch of the NYC Bike Share system — hosted a dynamic panel at the annualBike Expo New York this month addressing ways to involve women.

Moderated by Susi Wunsch, the founder of Velojoy and member of the Women Bike Advisory Board, the session crystallized some of the key hurdles and opportunities to get more women riding.

“In New York City, trips by male bicycle commuters outnumber those by women by 3-1,” Wunsch said in her opening, “but there’s real change on the horizon.”

The discussion provided an engaging glimpse of that promising future, capturing diverse experiences and perspectives on how to get more women riding, including (in the recap video above):

  • The story behind how and why Julie Hirschfeld opened Adeline Adeline, a women-friendly bike shop specifically oriented to commuter biking
  • Insight from Caroline Samponaro, director of campaigns and organizing at Transportation Alternatives, on the four ways to get more people on bikes — and how she took action to identify where women ride in greater numbers in NYC
  • Thoughts from Dani Simons, marketing director for the new Citi Bike, on what makes bike share systems particularly compelling to women

The panel also addressed head-on the most multi-faceted question of all: What are the best ways to attract more women to cycling (video above).

Share the videos above and subscribe to a wealth of great content around women and cycling at

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Infographic: Why Biking to Work is Great for Your Health

Mary Lauran Hall is communications manager at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. This post was cross-posed from the Alliance's blog.

It’s National Bike To Work Week, and many communities will celebrate Bike To Work Day tomorrow. Spring is the best time of year to dust off that bicycle and start riding!

In case you need a few reasons to hop on the saddle, here’s an infographic showing the health benefits of riding a bike to work.


Source: Fitness for Weight Loss

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Adventure Cycling Association's 5 Takeaways from the National Bike Summit

Jim Sayer is Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association. This blog post was cross-posted from the Adventure Cycling Association blog

Three Adventure Cycling staff (Ginny Sullivan, Winona Bateman, and myself) traveled this month to the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. Although it was my eighth summit, it felt really new and fresh. Here are five highlights, and I'm hoping Ginny and Winona will add some more.

1. Diversity! There's a running joke about older white guys dominating America's bike groups, including the infamous MAMILs (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra). I have to say, I resemble that remark (except for the lycra: board shorts and regular trousers for me)! But this year, there were many more women (and people of color and young people) than ever. There were plenty of white guys too, but it was great to have a much more diverse movement at the summit and on Capitol Hill. The League of American Bicyclists held a dynamic and well-attended Women's Bike Forum before the summit, which was a key reason for the more diverse attendance. Kudos to the League!


More women than ever attended the National Bike Summit, including Eileen Schaubert, a cycling advocate based in Austin, TX, (left) and Mia Kohout, publisher of Momentum Magazine (right)

2. Bike Tourism: As it has the past couple of years, bike tourism played a more prominent role at this years conference. I did a plenary talk on bike tourism with April Economides, who consults on the creation of bike-friendly business districts. IMBA did a great summary of the economic impacts of mountain bike tourism. Travel Oregon released the preliminary findings of their study on bike tourism's economic impact (by their accounting, that impact is at least $325 million annually). We also took the "power of bike travel and tourism" message to Capitol Hill; I was fortunate to meet with Congressman Sam Farr, co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus and an ardent supporter of active travel in his district (on the central California coast) and throughout the U.S.


Jim with California cycling advocates and Congressman Sam Farr (center), co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus

3. Decentralization: Last year's new federal transportation bill was something of a setback for bicycling. We lost some of our dedicated funding and are seeing some states decide not to use federal funding at all for biking, walking, or safe routes to school programs. As a result, I heard more discussion than ever at this summit about the need to grow our grassroots support to make sure our state departments of transportation and metropolitan areas invest in bicycling along with other modes of transport, and also to prepare for next year's reauthorization of the federal transportation program.

4. Bike-Partisanship: I attended a reception for Bikes PAC, which supports Congressional candidates who support biking, and I was pleasantly surprised to observe that, of the 10 Members of Congress who stopped by, half were Democrats and half were Republicans. It's a sign that bicycling is increasingly seen as a non-partisan (or "bike-partisan") issue, which bodes well for our efforts to bolster cycling in the next federal bill. The reception was also a great place to catch up with bike champions like Representative Peter DeFazio (from Eugene, OR, and the only retired bike mechanic in Congress).


On the left, Representative Peter DeFazio

5. Partnerships: The main message at the summit was "bicycling means business" and it was terrific to see so many representatives of the biking and tourism industries in DC. There were also many leaders from federal, state, and city agencies, from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard whose city is expanding its bike lane and trail network from one mile to 200 miles in 8 years! Also exciting was a panel discussion on providing more access to federal lands by bike, which Adventure Cycling organized. Look for more news on this soon, including a special agreement we are about to sign with the National Park Service on facilitating more biking in and to our national parks.

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Good news: Studies show bike commuting is one of the best ways to stay healthy

Jay Walljasper writes, speaks and consults frequently about biking and other ways to improve our communities. This post was cross-posted from the People for Bikes blog

It’s always a pleasure when scientific studies confirm your own long-held opinions, especially when what you think flies in the face of all conventional wisdom.

For instance, who knew that chocolate éclairs and triple fudge caramel brownies actually contain fewer calories than a 12-ounce glass of skim milk? Or that every $1000 you spend on lavish vacations before the age of 65 will, over the long run, provide you with more retirement income than if you’d stashed that same $1000 in a savings account?

Well, to be honest, I made up the fact about the éclairs. And the one about vacations too.Business commuter

But here’s bona fide scholarly research that excites me in the same way: Biking for transportation appears more helpful in losing weight and promoting health than working out at the gym.

This means I can spend less time wearing a grimace as I endure mind-numbing exercise routines at the Y—and more time wearing a smile as I bike to work, shopping and social events. Just what I always thought.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. According to Australian epidemiologist Takemi Sugiyama, lead author of a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, “Commuting is a relevant health behavior even for those who are sufficiently active in their leisure time.”

Analyzing the research, The Health Behavior News Service notes, “It may be more realistic to accumulate physical activity through active transport than adding exercise to weekly leisure-time routines.”

The four-year study of 822 adults found that found that people commuting to work by car gained more weight on average, even if they engaged in regular exercise, than people who did not commute by car. The authors of the study recommend creating more opportunities for everyone to walk or bike to work.

An earlier study by researchers at the University of Sydney School of Public Health published in Obesity Reviews (the journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity) supports the thesis that leisure-time exercise alone is not enough to prevent obesity. Sixty to 90 minutes of daily physical activity is recommended to curb obesity, which is more time than most people can fit into their busy schedules. That’s why the study’s authors recommend “active transport” like biking and walking for commuting other common trips.

Beyond fighting fat, biking and walking for transportation also boosts overall health. A 2007 paper in the European Journal of Epidemiology concludes “Commuting physical activity, independent of leisure time physical activity, was associated with a healthier level of most of the cardiovascular risk factors.”

The key advantage of traveling by bike over working out at a fitness center is that most people find it easier to do. Instead of vying for scarce free time with many other fun and important things, exercise becomes something we do naturally as part of daily routine. As a study by Portland State University professor Jennifer Dill in the Journal of Public Health Policy shows, 60 percent of Portland cyclists ride for at least 150 minutes per week (the recommended exercise minimum for adults) and that “nearly all the bicycling was for utilitarian purposes, not exercise.”

She adds “a disproportionate share of the bicycling occurred on streets with bicycle lanes, separate paths, or bicycle boulevards”—confirming the importance of bike infrastructure improvements to public health.

In my opinion, all this research also suggests that if I bike a lot for everyday transportation I can sometimes ditch the skim milk in favor of the brownies, and may save enough on auto expenses to both take a cool vacation and fund my retirement account.



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Mayor Ken Moore on balancing preservation with growth in Franklin, Tennessee

Alex Dodds is online communications manager at Smart Growth America, a coalition of organizaions advocating for smarter neighborhoods that offer a variety of transportation options, including biking and walking. This post was cross-posted from the Smart Growth America blog.


Main Street in downtown Franklin, TN. Photo via Flickr.

Franklin, TN’s historic Main Street is more than a pretty place. It exemplifies Franklin’s historic heritage and has become the heart of the city’s new economy.

“We like to say we’re a community that balances preservation with growth,” says Franklin Mayor Ken Moore. Moore is on the Advisory Board of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, a nonpartisan group of municipal officials who share a passion for building great towns, cities, and communities. As a member of the Local Leaders Council, Moore is one of many elected leaders across the country using smart growth strategies to help their hometowns generate better return on taxpayer investment and compete in today’s economy.

Upholding Franklin’s local character and heritage is important to the city and its residents. Working in partnership with property owners, preservationists, city and county government, local businesses and merchants in the city’s historic downtown, Franklin has created the conditions to make one of the country’s best Main Street success stories possible.

“The preservation community worked with the business folks to redevelop the entire downtown Main Street area,” Moore explains, “which involved undergrounding utilities, upgrading infrastructure, and for many of them upgrading the facades on their businesses. Now it’s a place that people love to walk, have a cup of coffe, have lunch, and also we’d like them to go in and spend a little money.”

“We see that when we develop gateways – whether it’s Main Street or the gateway into our city – redoing those areas with sidewalks and infrastructure and plantings and beautification leads to more economic development.”

In October, Mayor Moore was one of several Tennessee leaders who came together for a a full day summit examining transportation in middle Tennessee. Learn more about how Franklin is using smart growth strategies at the city’s Department of Planning and Sustainability website.

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The Senator and the Mayor: Local Control as Strategy and Success

Carolyn Szczepanski is communications director at the League of American Bicyclists. This post was cross-posted from the League blog.


Photo by Brian Palmer

A Democratic U.S. Senator from the Northeast and a Republican Mayor from the Midwest — at the National Bike Summit last week we saw the success of local control from both sides of the political spectrum.

This time last year, at the 2012 Summit, we were still on uncertain ground with the federal transportation bill, MAP-21.”We were up against a tremendous battle,” Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) (pictured) recounted this morning. “The rhetoric coming out of Capitol Hill when we started MAP-21 was ‘not one dime but for roads’ — and there would be no set asides or opportunity at all.”

But Cardin stepped up with a game-changing amendment — and advocates had his back in a big way. “At the end of the day, we were successful with the Cardin-Cochran provision because of the people in this room,” he said. “You’re smart. You figured out a strategy to win. Rather than just make a point, we won. The strategy is local control.”

And local leaders are stepping up, too. Sharing the stage this morning was Greg Ballard, the Republican mayor of Indianapolis, Ind. Sure, Ballard likes to bike, but that’s not the political point. “I tell people very candidly, it’s all about talent attraction — it’s not because the Mayor likes bikes,” he said.

“We’re all in competition for young talent and young families,” he explained. “And young people, milenials, are looking for bike lanes. They’re looking for trails. They’re looking for that connectivity — and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Ballard’s vision to recruit the best talent includes a connected network of 200 miles bike lanes and trails that link the city’s cultural amenities and green spaces. It includes converting an underutilized market into a state-of-the-art YMCA facility for bike commuter to shower and change and the launch of a new bikeshare system later this year.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said, “we just need to put in the infrastructure.”

And, well, stellar shower facilities don’t hurt, either. For the YMCA, Ballard joked: “I told them to go into the locker room of the Indianapolis Colts — that’s what I want. And that’s what I got.”

That kind of commitment at the local level is exactly the kind of control that will continue our work to build a bicycle-friendly America. Cardin, for one, is excited about the prospect: “Mayor Ballard, you’ll spend the money a lot smarter than the people in your capitol will to help your community.”


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Sequester, Performance Measures and MAP-21 Implementation

Margo Pedroso is deputy director at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. This post was cross-posted from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership blog.

If the news in your hometown is similar to what I hear in Washington, DC, you are probably hearing a lot about the sequester. Back in 2011, Congress and the President agreed to reduce the federal deficit, and created the sequester as a fail-safe to force spending cuts if they couldn’t reach a deal. Since no agreement has been reached, the sequester kicks in on March 1 and will require approximately $85 billion in cuts to federal spending between now and September 30, split evenly between defense spending and domestic spending.

Secretary LaHood has spoken quite a bit recently about the impact of these cuts on air travel, with air traffic controllers and TSA employees likely to be furloughed. But, he hasn’t talked about the impact on surface transportation. That is because the Highway Trust Fund dollars generated from the federal gas tax—which fund roads, bridges, Transportation Alternatives projects and more—are exempt from the sequester. 

However, the Trust Fund has gotten infusions of money from general tax dollars to help keep it solvent, and those funds are subject to the sequester. So, Highway Trust Fund programs will see a small cut, of approximately 1 percent—much less than the 6-8 percent cuts to other federal programs. We don’t yet have the details on how those cuts will be applied, but if it is similar to how the sequester is being implemented, it has to be applied evenly across all programs. It is still possible Congress could come to a deficit reduction deal that would cancel the sequester—but that is not expected until late March at the earliest when Congress also has to complete work on this year’s appropriations bills. 

On another note, even though the MAP-21 transportation law is only a two-year law, it includes changes that can take months or even years to take effect. As we are still waiting on the final guidance for Transportation Alternatives, I want to focus on performance measures. MAP-21 requires the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to set performance measures in several areas no later than March 2014. States then have another year to set their targets within those performance areas. While this seems far off, performance measures have the potential to drive how states spend their funds as they try to meet their performance targets.

In partnership with other national bicycling and walking organizations, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership is advocating that USDOT include a performance measure on bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Bicycle and pedestrian fatalities are rising, and now make up 16 percent of all traffic fatalities. Yet, just a handful of states spend a tiny percentage of their Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) dollars on bicycle and pedestrian safety. Creating a performance measure on bicycle and pedestrian safety will help ensure that states set targets to improve safety for these users—which will likely result in more safety spending on bicycling and walking. Attendees of the National Bike Summit next week will get a chance to talk with their Members of Congress about this important request on performance measures.

Finally, it’s important with all this focus on the future that we don’t forget about the past. The majority of states still have funds remaining from the old Safe Routes to School program available for more grant cycles. Take a look at our latest State of the States report to see what funding your state has remaining, and check in with your state’s Safe Routes to School coordinator to see what your state’s plans are for spending any remaining funds.

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Dr. Enrique Peñalosa Delivers Keynote Speech at Recycle-A-Bicycle’s 3rd Annual Youth Bike Summit

Mary Lauran Hall is communications manager at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. This post was cross-posed from the Alliance's blog.

Last weekend, Recycle-A-Bicycle held the third annual Youth Bike Summit, an inter-generational exchange between youth, advocates and educators from around the country who are working to promote bicycling and bicycle education in their communities. The Alliance for Biking & Walking was proud to sponsor the 2013 Youth Bike Summit as part of our efforts to support community bike shops.

Dr. Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, delivered a keynote address at the New York City event. Dr. Peñalosa earned worldwide notoriety for bringing a vast network of bicycle paths, cutting-edge pedestrian promenades, and a world-class bus rapid transit system to Bogotá. The following passages are excerpted from Dr. Peñalosa’s keynote remarks.


Original image: EMBARQ Brasil/Flickr

“Bicycles are revolutionary machines: they construct equality. … While cars are a means of social differentiation and exclusion, bicycles integrate people as equals. When two people on bicycles meet, they meet as human beings.”


Original image: Claudio Olivares/Flickr

“Saving on public transport by using a bicycle saves between 15% and 40% for a low-income person. A protected bicycle way is a symbol of democracy. It shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is just as important as a citizen in a $30,000 car.”


Image: add1sun/Flickr

“Parking is not a constitutional right in any country.”


Image: Ed Yourdon/Flickr

“We don’t have a right to go to most of the world. The only piece of planet to which you have access is public pedestrian space – sidewalks, bikeways, parks. In the 20th century, we made enormous mistakes in our human habitat. We worked hard to make it much more for cars’ mobility, not for human beings.”


Original image: Paul Krueger/Flickr

“All citizens are equal before the law. If that’s true, a citizen in a car has the same right to road space as one on a bicycle. For example, a bus with 80 passengers has the right to 80 times more road space than a car with one. Sometimes inequality is before our noses and we don’t realize it because we are used to it. Most cities in the world give more room to parked cars than to pedestrians and bicyclists. And we think this is normal.”


Original image: wileymcb/Flickr

“Sidewalks are for playing, for talking, for kissing. Ideally, sidewalks in every city should continue at grade. And cars should have to go up and down to make it clear that cars are entering pedestrian space and not that pedestrians are entering car space.”


Image: Saúl Ortega/Flickr

“In Bogotá, we close 120 kilometers of main arterial roads to cars every Sunday for 7 hours. Ciclovía is a ritual, a ceremony reminding us that the city belongs to people, more than to cars. … Besides, it’s always fun to do things you are not allowed to do.”


Image: EMBARQ Brasil/Flickr

“If you want a more bicycle-friendly world, it will not be the result of technical or academic analysis (as valuable as they are), but of political pressures and decisions. Therefore, get organized and participate in politics!”

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