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AASHTO wants to weaken US DOT bicycle accommodation policy, bicyclists respond

On Friday, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released a letter and supplemental document, which asked the US Department of Transportation to weaken their guidance on accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians. The supplemental document, submitted as part of a formal review of regulations, asks that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) withdraw their guidance on the meaning of “due consideration” of bicyclists and pedestrians to make it easier for states to ignore the needs of non-motorized travelers. AASHTO prefers the weaker “consider where appropriate” to allow states to avoid having to justify failure to accommodate bicycling and walking.

This request is misguided. At a time when cities are building entire bicycling networks for the cost of one mile of urban four-lane freeway, bike projects are putting people to work, and benefiting business, this is not the time to move backwards. When more and more states – 23 and counting – are embracing Complete Streets policies, AASHTO should be a leading voice in shaping holistic and comprehensive transportation systems, not resisting them. In fact, AASHTO’s own 12 year-old Bicycle Guide, due to be up dated this year, says that bicyclists and pedestrians can be expected on any roadway they are legally allowed to operate and therefore should be accommodated.

America Bikes, the coalition of national bicycling advocacy organizations, has sent this letter to the General Counsel of U.S. DOT to express our support for the current guidance and urge them to reject AASHTO’s request.

We need your voice as well:

AASHTO needs to hear from state DOTs that attacks on bicycling and walking do not reflect their wishes or interests. Use our Advocacy Center to Ask your state department of transportation head to contact AASHTO President Susan Martinovich, to let her know that your state disagrees with AASHTO’s recommendation. Find your state in the drop-down menu on the Advocacy Center page.

While AASHTO’s national leadership is trying to weaken federal guidance and retreating to narrow interpretations, many states are looking for leadership and planning and designing toolkits that would provide information and analysis for making really good technical decisions. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is beginning to step into this void. NACTO has released its Urban Bikeway Design Guide and is emerging as a counter-balance to AASHTO’s highway-centric approach. We hope that AASHTO will catch up with NACTO and provide the leadership that our communities are looking for.

In the meantime, do you have examples of state roads that do not accommodate cyclists and pedestrians? Share them in the comments.

UPDATE: AASTHO has withdrawn their request — thank you to everyone who sent alerts. We did it!

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