I want to start by linking to two great blog posts. First, from Secretary Lahood: http://fastlane.dot.gov/2010/06/its-official-bike-lanes-open-down-americas-main-street.html#more
2nd, from Rep. Earl Blumenauer: http://bikeportland.org/2010/06/22/rep-blumenauer-on-the-inauguration-of-pennsylvania-ave-bike-lanes/
These two individuals, and our own Tommy Wells, Council member for Ward 6 were the inspiration for the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue. Earl and Tommy were the originators of the challenge. I then championed the challenge, and the whole bike team, and operations teams at DDOT excitedly stepped up to the plate, with Toole Design as the author, and put it together. Mayor Fenty said “do it! And make it safe.”
In order: U.S. Sec LaHood, Rep Blumenauer, Mayor Fenty, Gabe Klein, Rep Oberstar speaking at Tuesday’s official opening of the Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lanes on America’s Main Street.
Why this level of detail? I think it is important to give credit where credit is due. Courage begets courage too. Someone has to have an idea, and someone else needs to move it forward. When Ray LaHood stood on a table at the Bicycle Summit, and made a clear statement about equal access for bicycles and pedestrians on our nation’s roads, it was a sea change in federal transportation policy. It was also courageous.
What’s interesting about policy shifts, particularly what we are seeing in this administration, after very different policies set during the last administration, is how something very logical, fiscally responsible, that fits in with our health, sustainability, and livability goals, can often be portrayed by a vocal minority as “outside of the mainstream.”
I was very excited today to read the headlines in the Washington Post: “Fairfax County supervisors authorize transformation of Tysons Corner.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/21/AR2010062104669.html
Now this takes real courage. This area in northern Virginia was once farmland, and has become a thriving business community, but not necessarily a smart growth city. I used to work at 8484 Westpark, and my co-workers and I would drive across the street to Panera because Rt. 7 was so treacherous.
What people have realized in Arlington (over a decade ago), Fairfax, and Gaithersburg etc. is that they want what DC already has. So there is no excuse for us, here in the Nation’s Capitol, to not celebrate and build upon what we inherently have in our built environment. I think we actually have an obligation to do this. To have the courage to build a Streetcar system, expand low-cost but premium bus service, to launch citywide Livability Studies for the safety of our residents, to invest in a 21st Century Metrorail system, create a regional utilitarian and fun bikeshare system, and to give those in all 8 wards layers of safe mode choices, while taking into account the distinct differences in density and topography. We also have a responsibility to tell the story, and explain the options to the public.
What may seem “outside of the mainstream” today, or “pushing the envelope,” even “radical,” will be the status quo tomorrow if we are true to the needs of our residents, our commuters, and our regional and national economic and environmental goals (which are all closely aligned and intertwined). We need to have the courage to formulate a vision beyond tomorrow’s traffic jam. I say we as leaders in government have a moral obligation to step up to the plate.