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Bikes on National Public Radio

District of Columbia DOT head Gabe Klein and US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood talk bikes on NRP — right now. The audio will be available online after 7:00pm EST.

A quiet revolution is starting in the world of transportation.

Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, recently announced what he’s calling a “sea change” in transportation policy: He wants to make biking as important as driving.

“We’re elevating it to the point where as we develop new road systems, as we develop communities where people can use light rail or street cars or buses, bike trails and walking paths will be equal partners if you will, and equal components of those kinds of transportation opportunities in communities across America,” LaHood tells NPR’s Guy Raz.

Right now, about 90 percent of the country commutes to work by car.

“We’ve put almost all of our resources into roads,” LaHood says. “If the commitment when President Eisenhower signed the interstate bill had been to high speed inner-city rail, we’d be in the same position Europe and Asia are in today.”

LaHood is also floating the idea of a nationwide interstate biking system – the two-wheel equivalent of Eisenhower’s highway system.

Some advocates for drivers and truckers are worried that this new focus on biking could divert resources from roads. But LaHood says the Department of Transportation isn’t looking to take away anyone’s turf – just to provide alternatives.

“We know that 90 percent of the people aren’t going to be cycling to work,” he says. “But that opportunity and that option and that kind of alternative is something we think people want.”

Speaking of NPR, they followed the story above with one on texting and biking:

State Sen. Joe Simitian drafted the proposed law, which is now making its way through the Senate. He says cyclists should have been included in the ban on texting and using hand-held cell phones all along.

“As it happens, in this case there was an oversight when we passed our hands-free law some years ago, and cyclists were inadvertently omitted,” he says.

But Simitian has gotten a mixed reaction.

“There are some folks who say, ‘I’m not sure I want to be liable for a fine if I’m violating the hands-free law.’ Others say, ‘You know what? We want to be taken seriously as part of the transportation system. If we’ve got a right to share the road, then we also have a responsibility to follow the laws and the rules of the road that apply to everybody else.’ “

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