Tuesday, April 12, 2011

AASHTO seeks to weaken considerations for bikes & peds

This news has hit the bike/ped universe rather hard today.   Fortunately, us bike/ped folks are hitting back equally hard.  In a letter to the Federal Highway Administration the American Association of Highway Transportation Officials asked for a "change" in FHWA bicycle and pedestrian policy. The part of interest is below.  Emphasis mine, I quote:
FHWA Guidance for Bicycle and Pedestrian Provisions of Federal Transportation Legislation, updated on April 4, 2007, states the following:  
"Due consideration" of bicycle and pedestrian needs should include, at a minimum, a presumption that bicyclists and pedestrians will be accommodated in the design of new and improved transportation facilities. In the planning, design, and operation of transportation facilities, bicyclists and pedestrians should be included as a matter of routine, and the decision to not accommodate them should be the exception rather than the rule. There must be exceptional circumstances for denying bicycle and pedestrian access either by prohibition or by designing highways that are incompatible with safe, convenient walking and bicycling.
The law clearly states that bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be considered where appropriate. However, FHWA guidance has embellished the law from “consider where appropriate” to a must include condition unless not doing so can be justified. Furthermore, it states that “there must be exceptional circumstances” for not providing such facilities. This regulation presents an undue burden on states to justify exceptional circumstances when not including provisions for bicyclists and pedestrians in a project. Recommendation: FHWA should rescind their guidance on the meaning of “due consideration.”
WalkBikeJersey contributor and Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Advocacy Director, John Boyle asks:
What does this mean? The FHWA improved its due consideration language to reflect the values of a good complete streets policy. AASHTO is not happy with that language and wishes to exclude any suggestion that they must justify not accommodating bicycles and pedestrians in transportation projects. Justification for exclusion is perhaps the most important element of a complete streets policy-that you just can't say no because the project manager says so. Note that the Federal language says "should" not "shall"

So basically AASHTO is attempting to further weaken a flimsy federal policy for accommodating bicycles and pedestrians. That doesn't sound supportive and bicycle and pedestrian advocates deserve an explanation.
I couldn't agree more.  This is such a shame and a surprise since from where I stand, it seemed that AASHTO was coming around to the side of of bicyclists and pedestrians.  However, Executive Director of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Kit Keller, had this to say today :
AASHTO officials seem to be oblivious to blossoming interest and innovation of local governments across the land that want walkable, bicycle-friendly communities. AASHTO's recent pronouncement contributes to a growing sense of the irrelevance and irrationality of applying state mandates to local road conditions and needs. Hence the development of new tools like the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.
Whoa!  You tell 'em Kit!  I knew there was a reason why I liked you.

For more analysis on this, see this great post from Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

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