Hitting the last leg of a bicycle ride near my home on a beautiful spring afternoon on Tuesday, I stumbled on this scene along southbound Interstate 405 between Bellevue and Renton.
Bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic crawling along as far as the eye could see, right next to a wide open bike lane.
I wondered if those people in the cars and trucks thought about what it would be like to ride along this stretch on a bicycle. They probably get to think about it a lot. This backup isn't uncommon here; it's pretty much a daily occurrence.
It got me to thinking about US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's announcement about a major policy revision that puts walking and bicycling on an equal footing with motorized transportation. The needs of bicyclists and pedestrians will be integrated in all federally funded road projects.
Summarized at his Fast Lane blog, LaHood cited the highlights:
- Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
- Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
- Go beyond minimum design standards.
- Collect data on walking and biking trips.
- Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
- Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
- Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.
The changes are further spelled out in this DOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation, released March 15. He goes on to say at his blog:
Look, bike projects are relatively fast and inexpensive to build and are environmentally sustainable; they reduce travel costs, dramatically improve safety and public health, and reconnect citizens with their communities.
Not surprisingly, Republicans in Congress “ridiculed” LaHood for his support of people who walk and ride bicycles.
It's great that the federal transporation department will stop favoring motorized traffic at the expense of non-motorized traffic.
Someone already must have had that idea many years ago here to build this bike trail; the only other route goes up and over some nearby hills. But that wasn't enough to convince these people stuck in traffic to try bicycling instead of motoring.
Bike commuters use this path; I see them whenever I get out for an early morning ride. Their numbers begin to grow this time of year. Maybe if the motorists see more people toodling along on bikes while they're stuck in their cars, then they'll give bicycling a try.
Bike to Work Day
One big event coming up to encourage bicycle commuting is Bike To Work Day on May 21.
The Cascade Bicycle Club is offering many incentives throughout the month of May to encourage people to ride their bicycles to work and for errands.
I strongly recommend you check it out if you're one of those folks considering making the leap from four wheels to two.