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Bike Path to Nowhere

By Randy Mullett | 06/09/2010 | 8:34 PM
Even casual observers of transportation policy have noticed DOT’s emphasis on livability and, by extension, their fascination with “active transportation’ (aka biking and walking). Livability is a worthy goal for all communities and, though it is still a somewhat ill-defined policy concept, biking and bike paths are certainly key components.

In an effort to make Washington, DC more livable, the Mayor and Federal policymakers decided to put a bike path down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol with no connections at either end. For those who do not frequent that area, this is not a typical bike path. Instead of narrow lanes down the curb side of the roadway, this bike “path” is a full three auto lanes wide going right down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. Yes, approximately one-third of the capacity of an already busy street in our nation’s capital was taken to serve a handful of cyclists. The result has been increased congestion, increased emissions, long rush hour delays, and the ire of many DC visitors, cabbies, workers, and residents. This is not a very livable result for any but the cyclists and, in apparent reaction to public pressure, DC has just announced that autos will now be able to use the left lanes again. Good for them, and an important lesson for other transportation policy makers.

Now, lest you believe I am anti-bike, I want to assure you this is not the case. Two of my three grown children bicycle regularly in Old Town Alexandria, a nearby Washington suburb. One does not own a car and cycles to work every day. If for no other reason than their safety, I support adequate accommodations for cyclists. That having been said, if cyclists are to be taken as serious members of the transportation community, perhaps it is time that reasonable requirements be placed upon them to insure they can safely interact with other road users and provide the necessary funding to support their projects.

Items that DOT and other transportation policy makers might consider are:

• Training, testing, licensing, and minimum age requirements for cyclists.
• Required insurance coverage to protect cyclists, pedestrians, and other road users.
• Minimum equipment standards and safety inspections.
• Mandatory helmet laws.
• Bike path user fees.
• Bicycle and tire excise taxes to fund bike path construction and maintenance
• Enforcement of all traffic laws for cyclists.

For policy makers who support increased use of cycling, failure to consider and provide proper regulatory oversight of new policies – and appropriate funding mechanisms to pay for it all -- is irresponsible and unfair to other road users.

The real issue is not bike paths. It is how do policymakers determine the best use of limited transportation dollars to improve our transportation system while increasing mobility for all Americans? There are many worthy projects, in all modes, that are well worth considering. A bike path to nowhere is not one of them.
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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Randy Mullett

Randy Mullett

C. Randal (Randy) Mullett is founder and principal of Mullett Strategies, LLC. Helping clients navigate the intricacies of Washington, DC, he focuses on transportation/freight policy, sustainability, security, and issue advocacy messaging. Prior to his current role, Mullett was vice president, government relations and public affairs, for XPO Logistics (previously Con-way Inc.) As a member of Con-way's Executive Leadership Team, he had responsibility for all government relations, corporate security, and public affairs activities including PR, corporate communication, brand management, social media, and corporate social responsibility. Additionally, he was Con-way's Chief Sustainability Officer and President of the Con-way Foundation.

Before going to Washington, he spent 25 years in LTL trucking operations and sales management. He served on the board of directors of the National Association of Manufacturers, The American Trucking Associations, The Cargo Airlines Association, The American Benefits Council, and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. Additionally, he is a member of the USDOT's National Freight Advisory Committee and DHS's Highway and Motor Carrier Sector Coordinating Committee. A resident of Berryville, Va., Mr. Mullet holds a bachelor's degree from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.V., and an MBA from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.


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