Monday, April 15, 2013

BikeWalkLee's "Take-Aways" from Tampa Bike Summit

Secretary LaHood being interviewed by NBC-2 News
 As reported in Friday's blog story about the Bike SafetySummit, BikeWalkLee participated in the April 11th Bike Summit hosted by USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood and came away inspired and energized.  While our first post shared links to the local news coverage, a video of the opening session featuring Secretary LaHood, and our photo album, this blog post focuses on what we learned at the summit that can help us improve the safety of Lee County's roads for cyclists, make a more multi-modal transportation system for our community, and change the culture.

Below are some of the highlights from our report.  Click here for the full report.

USDOT Announcements of Interest:

TIGER V:  Secretary LaHood announced that there is going to be a 5th round of grants for TIGER grants, the highly competitive discretionary grant program to fund innovative multi-modal transportation infrastructure projects.  There will be $475 million available and the grant announcement will be coming out shortly.  This is exciting news, since Lee County had a highly ranked complete streets initiative application ($10 million request) in rounds 3 and 4.  As Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, it took them 3 tries before they got their Riverwalk project funded ($10 million) in TIGER IV last year, so the third time is the charm.  BikeWalkLee will be requesting the MPO Board to re-submit a strengthened complete streets initiative grant application for TIGER V.

Performance Measures:  One of the themes of the summit was the shift to a performance-based transportation system as called for in the MAP-21 Act.  USDOT officials announced that the draft regulations for the new performance measurement system will be coming out shortly for public comment and that it will require states to set strong performance measures and targets for reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatality and serious injury rates. These will require accurate, timely data collection and accountability. This is welcome news and we should start planning now for setting local targets to reduce the rate of bike/ped fatalities and injuries in Lee County. 

Overarching messages:  Secretary LaHood's themes can guide our efforts: 
  • develop zero tolerance for people who don't respect cyclists. 
  • continue effort until we reduce cyclist deaths and injuries to zero.
  • as more people use biking for transportation needs,  we have to step up our safety agenda
  •  bike and pedestrian safety is a long-term campaign that requires cultural/behavior changes, along with laws and enforcement.  Think of the successes with the "Click It or Ticket" seatbelt campaign and Mothers Against Drunk Driving...with a combination of tools over a decade or more, the desired behaviors have become the norm.  That's the kind of sustained and multi-faceted approach we need for our bike safety campaign.
  • To succeed, we must change the culture in Florida--a long term and systematic shift. 
  • Secretary LaHood and other officials voiced strong support for Complete Streets policies as a way to make our streets safer for everyone.
    Secretary LaHood with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Economic Benefits:  Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn focused on the economic benefits of investing in biking infrastructure and making it a safe biking community.
  • Being a bikeable/walkable city is key to a city being able to compete with other cities for the intellectual capital workers. Saying “We recognize that intellectual capital is mobile and if we don’t want to keep losing to Charlotte, Austin, and Minneapolis we need to be competitive, we need to be a connected city. So, we are all in and we are getting out ahead”. 
  • He wants to make Tampa a "hip" and "cool" place to attract and keep  smart, talented professionals want to live.  Is it a city where you can live, work and play and not get into your car?  Biking is a big part of positioning the city to attract those workers.
  • This message resonated with the Lee County participants --this is an economic development tool and an important part of positioning our county to be vibrant and sustainable into the future. 
  •  Buckhorn says “We don’t have the money to road build our way out of congestion, it has to be multi-modal; walking, biking, BRT, light rail.”
Celebrate the Progress we've made:   At the close of the summit Beth Osborne, USDOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, made some important points about what's been accomplished in the past 4 years...yes, we've got a long way to go, but we should also realize the progress we're making.
Four years ago the first bike share opened up and now it's in 40 cities; and mayors are now creating economic vibrancy in their cities by focusing on bikeable communities--something that has changed profoundly in 4 years.

FDOT encouraged to adopt complete streets policyWe were also encouraged to hear the call from participants for FDOT to adopt a statewide complete streets policy and are hopeful that with District 1 Secretary Hattaway's support, FDOT will take up this leadership challenge.

This approach, which BWL has recommended to Florida Governors since 2010, could help shape the culture change needed to make our streets safer for all users, and provide needed leadership and support to the 32 communities in Florida (including Lee County) that have adopted complete streets policies.  BikeWalkLee will redouble its efforts, in collaboration with other advocates throughout Florida, to encourage FDOT to adopt a complete streets policy this year.

The full report includes lots of specific "take aways" organized by the following topics:  education, engineering, enforcement, policy/law/regulatory changes, messaging, coalition-building, advocacy, and policy and data.  We encourage you to read the full report for ideas from national leaders and other Florida communities about how Lee County can step up its efforts to make our roadways safer for cyclists and pedestrians and achieve the economic benefits that come from investing in safe and accessible biking and walking infrastructure.
Report by Darla Letourneau and Ann Pierce (4/14/13)

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