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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Administrator, FHWA

Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

[off introduction by Mark Plotz, Director of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking and the Vice President of People for Public Spaces]

Good morning to all of you!

It’s my great pleasure to represent Secretary Foxx and my colleagues at the U.S. DOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

I know it’s not exactly the same group, but I wanted to congratulate this year’s APBP award recipients. All of them have done outstanding work and are more than deserving of these important awards.

Notably, Dan Goodman of the Federal Highway Administration who is this year’s “Professional of the Year in the Public Sector.” For years, he has been an incredibly effective advocate for livability issues, and walking and bicycling. It couldn’t go to a more deserving person.

And Barbara McCann, who directs the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Safety, Energy and Environment, is another clear standout and richly deserves this year’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.” She founded the National Complete Streets Coalition, and continues to ensure that all of us at the USDOT are focused on safety which is our top priority.

You ALL deserve congratulations for your years of working to improve transportation options, wherever you’re from. For nearly 4 decades, the people in the room here today have done incredible work in advancing the cause of livability and being world-class advocates of pedestrian and bicycle issues, and placemaking in the United States and Canada.

All of you should be very proud of the work you’ve achieved.

This conference in particular has been critical in advancing pedestrian and bicycle travel and safety.

Secretary Foxx chose this conference to launch the “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative two years ago and I’m here to report on our progress… on what we’ve learned… and on our ongoing commitment to creating safer streets for bicycling and walking.

As many of you may know, it was a three-part initiative, including the “Safer Streets Assessment,” the “Mayors’ Challenge,” and “Safer Policies.”

The first element of the initiative was a call for the Department to convene a pedestrian and bicyclist road safety assessment in every State.

The assessments involved walking a corridor with city and State transportation staff, local advocates, disabled residents, and many more stakeholders to identify gaps.

By the end of June 2015, USDOT had completed 52 safety assessments – one for each State, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

In March 2015, Secretary Foxx launched the Mayors' Challenge component of the Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative. This was a call to action for mayors and elected officials to take significant steps to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

246 communities joined the challenge and made a commitment to improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety by issuing a public statement about the importance of bicycle and pedestrian safety, forming local action teams to advance safety and accessibility goals, and taking local action.

Over the last year and a half, USDOT has provided resources and assistance to communities in making progress on these seven challenge activities.

Of the communities that reported their progress to USDOT through a survey and/or awards application, we have been able to document the following outcomes from the Mayors’ Challenge:

  • 12 communities reported adopting new Complete Streets policies.
  • Many cities conducted road safety assessments, took inventories of existing pedestrian and bicycle facilities and created safer street crossings.
  • Cities installed 36 new systems to count pedestrians and cyclists, and 14 cities collected survey data from pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Many cities developed new design standards and manuals, taking advantage of design flexibility, and they started redesigning their streets using road diets and separated bike lanes to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • 11 cities reported that they constructed more than 370 miles of pedestrian and bicycle lane-miles.
  • More than 40 cities reported on safety education, including several educational programs for school-aged kids, which reached over 10,000 students.

So, we have been busy... but we are far from finished.

This Friday, we are holding a summit at USDOT headquarters in Washington, D.C., to bring together Mayors and other representatives from among the 246 cities participating in the Mayors’ Challenge.

We will be recognizing cities that have made the most progress during the Challenge with awards in each challenge area as well as a Secretary’s award for overall excellence.

USDOT will continue to provide leadership, funding, resources, and other support to promote safe walking and bicycling.

We are in the process of institutionalizing Department-wide collaborative efforts, and establishing a set of goals and metrics to help us track national progress on pedestrian and bicycle activity and safety on an annual basis.

So, we’ve been busy but we’re looking for ways to be even busier. Progress doesn’t happen without effort and commitment.

Despite this progress, we know that road fatalities in the U.S. increased last year to more than 35,000. The increase in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities was especially significant.

We are dedicated to reducing this number. At USDOT, safety is our top priority and this applies to all modes of travel.

ANY roadway fatality is too many, which is why our goal will always be zero deaths. We have made great progress in so many ways, but the bottom line in 2015 was that more people died than the previous year.

Clearly we need to work harder, and smarter. America’s roads can, and must, be safer – for ALL who use them, regardless of mode of travel.

We are working with new partners to use new methods to analyze the crash data and determine the most effective ways to bring the fatalities down. We will be discussing ways to reduce roadway fatalities on Friday, how we can determine the cause of the increase, and to redouble our efforts to address them.

Safety is our top priority, and that has never been more clear than now. USDOT will continue to provide leadership, funding, resources and other support to promote safe walking and bicycling.

We are also institutionalizing our collaboration throughout the USDOT, and establishing a set of goals and performance metrics to track national progress on pedestrian and bicycle activity and safety each year.

STRATEGIC AGENDA FOR PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE TRANSPORTATION

Today, the FHWA is announcing its “Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation.” As I speak, it’s being posted on our website – www.FHWA.DOT.GOV.

It sets out two aspirational goals:

  • Reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries by 80 percent in 15 years, and strive for zero pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in the next 20 to 30 years.

  • Increase the percentage of short trips represented by bicycling and walking to 30 percent by the year 2025. This will indicate a 50 percent increase over where things were in 2009.

Our team has spent the last two years developing this document which will help to guide the work of the FHWA over the next 3-5 years, to ensure that the progress we have made will not slow down.

It is organized around four goals – networks, safety, equity, and trips – and each goal includes activities relating to capacity building, policy, data, and research.

It emphasizes the use of existing resources and building on the policy statement on bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

The volume and type of activities it includes demonstrates FHWA’s ongoing leadership on multimodal transportation, and represents our commitment to institutionalize and mainstream these issues moving forward.

We’re promoting pedestrian and bicycle planning, design, and safety resources, convening peer exchange and other outreach, updating policies, fostering active public participation in the planning and decision-making process, and leading pedestrian and bicycle assessments and audits.

We’re ensuring accessibility for all users, while also pushing innovation by identifying and filling gaps in knowledge and practice, promoting design flexibility, encouraging and facilitating experimentation, and conducting new research.

LADDERS OF OPPORTUNITY

Planning is where opportunities lie, and we are actively encouraging American communities to plan for the needs of a growing bike and pedestrian population. Our culture is shifting in that direction, as it is in many countries.

One of the most important opportunities you have in planning for the future is to reverse or avoid some of the errors that were made in the past.

Secretary Foxx has started a national conversation about the link between transportation and opportunity.

He encourages us to think of transportation not just as a way to get from Point A to Point B, but as Ladders of Opportunity linking people safely and efficiently to a job, to an education, to their doctor or to anything that impacts their quality of life.

Offering safe places for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel is central to this philosophy. We are Connecting People to Opportunity.

Secretary Foxx has made a lasting contribution by putting this subject high on the public agenda. This is not just a professional issue for the Secretary – for him, it’s very personal.

He grew up in a neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was essentially trapped between two Interstates.

It limited access to the neighborhood, and discouraged grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses from opening there.

It also had a psychological impact – it gave the people who lived there a sense that they were “second-class citizens.”

This problem was certainly not limited to Charlotte, and it wasn’t just because of Interstate highways. Airports, railroads and transit have divided communities, damaged local businesses and cut people off from the opportunities they deserve.

However, focusing on pedestrian and bicycle networks has a unifying effect. They create community. They unite, instead of divide.

As we look to the future and make transportation decisions that will have long-lasting impact, the Secretary urges us to consider both the big picture and the small picture – the macro and the micro perspectives.

The big picture, of course, is the Interstate’s unquestioned role in supporting the national economy and linking the United States together.

But on the “micro” side, we need to take into account the historical impact – often harmful – it had on individual neighborhoods and communities, and explore options for reconnecting communities that will have long-term benefits. The bicycle and pedestrian community has long championed community-based solutions like these, and the Secretary and I do too. They work.

We have a chance to rebuild the system so it works for everyone in all communities – connecting people to opportunity without harming people in its path, and building projects by, for and with the input of communities impacted by them.

Secretary Foxx has called upon me, his teams in all the modes and all of us, to accept this new challenge and make the kind of transportation decisions by which everyone in every community will benefit.

CONCLUSION

Before I go, let me thank you for all that you’ve done and for all that you are planning to do. Delivering safer travel options for people on foot, in wheelchairs, by bike and other vehicles takes creativity, commitment, and collaboration.

Your efforts are helping to create safer, more efficient street networks for those traveling on foot, by bike and in vehicles throughout the world.

I also want to thank you for working to ensure that people can get home safely. Together we can aspire to a future in which communities have safe and complete transportation networks for people of all ages and abilities…. And hopefully one in which we don’t have fatalities on our roadways.

Working together, we can make this happen.

Thank you.

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