Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
National Bike Summit
Monday, March 11, 2019
Thank you, Bill. It is great to be back here. This National Bike Summit – the 20th – marks two decades of mobilizing bicycle enthusiasts, advocates and stakeholders to ensure that federal policymakers are aware of the needs of America’s bicyclists. This event has become an impressive and important transportation forum.
Safety is always the #1 priority at the U.S. Department of Transportation, so we are especially appreciative of the insights and ideas that the League of American Bicyclists bring to the table to improve safety. The Department also prioritizes mobility and quality of life through better transportation options and infrastructure. That’s why the Federal Highway Administration is a co-sponsor of the Bike Summit again this year.
DOT has a team here today whom I would like to recognize. Please stand, DOT. They are here to listen and learn as well as share their expertise.
One of the initiatives that my DOT colleagues have been working on, and which I am pleased to announce today, is the Bikeway Selection Guide. This resource will help transportation practitioners make informed decisions related to the selection of bikeway types. It builds upon Federal Highway’s active support for design flexibility and connected, safe, and comfortable bicycle networks. Federal Highways will provide technical assistance to several pilot communities, which will use the guide for the next 2 years. And Federal Highways recently released the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Scalable Risk Assessment Methodology to help communities estimate pedestrian and bicyclist risk and inform funding decisions.
The Department’s efforts to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities include focusing extra resources on the 16 States and 35 cities with the highest number of these fatalities. Federal Highways has several other ongoing research projects. They address safety, such as the development of crash modification factors for different separated bike lane configurations.
One of the Administration’s priorities is accelerating delivery of infrastructure projects. Consistent with that, Federal Highways released the Strategies for Accelerating Multimodal Project Delivery report. Staff conducted a breakout session on it this morning, which I hope was well attended. To boost training, Federal Highways is updating the National Highway Institute Bicycle Facility Design course and making it web-based. It is also developing lesson plans focused on bicycling and walking that can be incorporated into undergraduate or graduate level transportation courses.
The Department continues to provide funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. These are eligible for nearly all Federal-aid funds through State departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations.
Our country is in the midst of one of the most exciting eras in transportation history. Many new technologies are being developed that have the potential to save lives, revolutionize travel and commerce, and provide new mobility options for underserved communities. We’re seeing some of this up-close in the DC area with the rapid expansion of bikesharing, e-bikes and e-scooters.
Some potentially transformative technologies are still in the early phases of development. Fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles, for example, exist primarily in limited and controlled circumstances. The Department’s approach to regulating automated, or self-driving, vehicles stresses collaboration, cooperation and transparency.
The potential of this technology to increase safety is very significant. Motor vehicle crashes in 2017 killed 37,133 people, including 783 bicyclists and 5,977 pedestrians, and injured more than 3,000,000 adults and children. The annual economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. is over $240 billion. It is impossible to quantify the scope of the human tragedy of all the lives lost on America’s roads and those lives forever altered due to serious injury.
Research has shown that over 90% of fatal crashes involve human error. Behavioral changes – including reducing impaired, distracted and other reckless driving -- and vehicle safety innovations, are the keys to reducing traffic crash fatalities and injuries.
But the promise of automated vehicles will never be realized if the public – bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists included -- does not have confidence in the safety, security and privacy of this technology. I have personally, publicly and repeatedly challenged manufacturers and Silicon Valley to step up, address these concerns and help educate consumers about these new technologies. It is imperative that automated vehicle manufacturers put safety first and embrace transparency.
So as you can see, there is a lot going on at DOT that is of significance to America’s bicyclists. There is even more going on at the state and local level. It surprises many people – especially in Washington, D.C. – to discover that 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. So one of our priorities at the Department is to work closely with state DOTs, as their partner.
2019 and 2020 promise to be very important in transportation policymaking at the federal level. Infrastructure is among the top two or three big policy matters upon which leaders from both parties see an opportunity for bipartisan progress.
The current 5-year surface transportation authorization law expires on September 30, 2020. The Department and the congressional committees of jurisdiction are working together on the next multi-year authorization for America’s surface transportation systems. The League of American Bicyclists’ input will influence those discussions. By the way, I would like to thank the League for filing formal comments on important matters before the Department – including on AVs -- and actively engaging in the processes.
Thanks again for this opportunity to participate in the 2019 National Bike Summit. I would tip my bike helmet -- were I wearing one -- in tribute to the organizers who put this event together. And to all those who have travelled here from all over the country, to make yourselves heard and to learn. You are doing important work and a lot of people in our country will benefit from your efforts.
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