Last week, US Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the department’s new plan to increase walking and biking and reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities: the Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative.
The Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative focuses on something Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) has advocated for for a long time: safe, accessible pedestrian and bicycle networks. U.S. DOT is finally realizing that building new bike-ped infrastructure is great, but that the value of the new infrastructure is substantially diminished if it doesn’t connect to other safe infrastructure. The logic is simple: few of us will use a new bike lane or trail often if it spits us out in an unsafe, heavily-trafficked road, rather than connecting to another trail or bike lane.
U.S. DOT has even borrowed one of PTNY’s catch phrases for this new effort: “Closing the Gaps.” As secretary Foxx put it, “One of our top priorities will be closing those gaps in pedestrian and bicycle networks…” He also said, “At DOT, we just finished hosting pilot walking and bicycling assessments in Boston, Fort Worth, and Lansing. We brought together all of our stakeholders; we identified gaps; and we found ways to fix them. This experience will provide the rest of our field offices with a road map for the next several months when we’ll be leading one of these assessments in every single state in the U.S.A.” and “As we identify the gaps, we’ll also be developing a new set of tools and resources to help us close them.”
Secretary Foxx and the U.S. DOT’s new commitment to safe networks create an important foundation, but without dedicated funding streams for the planned infrastructure state and local governments will not have the resources necessary to provide safe facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists. PTNY along with our coalition partners at New Yorkers for Active Transportation (NY4AT), will continue to work towards securing funding to “Close the Gaps” in our own transportation networks as this federal effort unfolds, particularly the gaps in the Canalway Trail. If nothing else, it it great to know that we will have a new powerful federal partner in the U.S. DOT.