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National Bike Summit

Monday, March 12, 2018

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
National Bike Summit
Washington, D.C.
March 5, 2018

Thank you, Bill [Nesper – Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists].   Before I begin let me acknowledge our DOT colleagues who are participating in the National Bike Summit.  Would the DOT team please stand?  

The team is working hard to help improve bicycle safety and access.  They are eager to gain your insights and ideas, and are pleased to share their in-depth knowledge, as well.  There are many DOT bicyclists who cannot be here today but who are in spirit. That includes the Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Jeff Rosen, an avid bicyclist whom I’m told rides centuries.   

It takes an adventurous spirit to bicycle around D.C. or any urban area or country road – especially on roads without bike infrastructure and with deteriorating surfaces.  Our nation’s infrastructure is in need of repair in so many ways.  Far too many drivers simply are not paying enough attention to driving safely and looking out for other road users.  Especially the most vulnerable road users -- America’s bicyclists and pedestrians. 

It is deeply concerning that bicycle fatalities have been trending up in recent years:  829 in 2015, which was a 13.7% increase over the year before.  840 bicyclist fatalities in 2016 – a 1.3% increase.   The 2017 figures are not yet complete.

With bicycling increasing in popularity as a mode of transportation and recreational activity, it has never been more important to advance safety and accessibility.  One of the remarkable developments in biking in the past few years is the astounding increase in bike sharing – from 340 thousand bike share trips annually in 2010, to around 30 million today.  Brightly colored, dockless share bikes have been appearing all over DC the past few months.  It’s another transportation innovation that has the potential to help people in all neighborhoods and every income level get to where they need to go, while realizing the health benefits of bicycling. 

Bike commuting has increased 60% in a decade.  So making safe bicycling more accessible can help people who bike to work, as well as benefit those who bike for other reasons.

The League of American Bicyclists, founded nearly 140 years ago to advocate for better roads, is still a compelling and persuasive voice for improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure.  Arguably no one experiences the inadequacies in our infrastructure more keenly than do America’s bicyclists. 

For the past year, 12 federal agencies have been working to develop a comprehensive infrastructure improvement plan.  It encompasses transportation, energy, drinking and wastewater, rural broadband, and veterans’ hospitals.  That plan was delivered to Congress.  It has ignited a much needed discussion on infrastructure priorities, how to pay for them, and how to get them completed more quickly.

The goal of the President’s proposal is to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment, which includes a minimum of $200 billion in direct federal funding.  The guiding principles are to: 1) use federal dollars as seed money to incentivize infrastructure investment; 2) provide for the needs of rural communities; and 3) streamline permitting and speed up project delivery; and, 4) reduce unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations.  In addition, a key element of the proposal is to empower decision making at the state and local level, who know best the infrastructure needs of their communities. Half of the new infrastructure funds would go towards incentivizing new state and local investments in infrastructure. A quarter of the Federal funds will be dedicated to addressing rural infrastructure needs, as prioritized by state and local leaders.  And as a former Secretary of Labor, I’m pleased to note this plan also has a workforce component, to help workers access the skills needed to build these new projects.

This administration believes in empowering decision making at the state and local level.  The federal government only owns about 10 percent of our country’s infrastructure, and contributes about 14 percent of total infrastructure spending.  The rest is owned and funded by state and local governments. 

One way that DOT empowers state and local decision making is to provide national planning and design resources that help our partners and stakeholders deliver high-quality projects and improve outcomes in the transportation planning process. An example of this is a new resource from the Federal Highway Administration that I’m announcing today on measuring multimodal network connectivity. This resource focuses on pedestrian and bicycle network connectivity and provides information on incorporating connectivity analysis into state, metropolitan, and local transportation planning processes. The report is now available on the Federal Highway Administration’s website. To learn more about this exciting new resource, please attend the DOT staff session here at the Summit tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

As you may know, my priorities at DOT are:  1) safety; 2) infrastructure; 3) planning for the future in managing new technologies.

We are in the midst of a transformational era in transportation.  New technologies, such as autonomous – or self-driving – vehicles, bike-to-vehicle communication and other innovations, could further transform the way we travel and connect with one another.  These new technologies have the potential to improve safety for all road users by addressing human error, which is a factor in 94 percent of traffic fatalities.  They also can help increase access to transportation for underserved communities—including the elderly and people with disabilities by giving them back their mobility and freedom. 

There are also legitimate concerns over these technologies, in regard to safety, security and privacy.  Last September, the Department issued guidance on the deployment of AVs called “A Vision for Safety 2.0.”  Even before that was completed, work was underway on AV 3.0 -- an update that hopefully will be released as early as this summer, and will be revised as often as needed.   This new AV guidance will be multimodal, and include various surface transportation systems, such as mass transit, rail, and trucking.  And will again highlight the need for AVs to operate safely in proximity to bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as other vehicles.    

Let me commend everyone here at the National Bike Summit, who in professional capacities and as individual enthusiasts and community activists, are promoting and advancing bike safety and accessibility.  DOT welcomes your input, and invites you to bring your insights and passion forward on behalf of America’s bicyclists.  

So thank you for everything you are doing to promote bicycle safety and access, and thank you for inviting me here today.