Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some Final Thoughts

As I think back over the two weeks of the scan tour, there are a few things that stand out. In all the countries we visited, bicycling and walking are considered to be components of larger initiatives such as sustainability, traffic safety, addressing climate change and creating a high quality of life for citizens and visitors. In general, there was a mindset that when traffic congestion was getting to be too great, the solution was not to add more capacity for motor vehicles, but to seek solutions to reduce the traffic. These solutions included increased costs for parking in city centers, bolstering public transportation and doing more to make bicycling and walking safe, comfortable and efficient ways to move around. We heard of the U.K. road user hierarchy that puts the various modes in this order: pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit, service vehicles, private vehicles. This kind of model leads to very livable downtowns based on people, not cars.

At our final team meeting, we sought to gain consensus on our "top ten" list to bring back to the U.S. for implementation. As we had hoped, we ended up with a mix of policy, education and infrastructure ideas that all fit under the traditional 4 E's of Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Engineering.

It is clear that it takes both political will and targeted investment to raise bicycling, walking and public transit to the levels we observed during our trip. Clearly, we are at a time where many external factors and challenges point to bicycling and walking as key components to solve some of our pressing issues like climate change, energy independence, obesity epidemic and the decreased role of public life in our communities. Hopefully, with the inspiration of what we observed over the two weeks and some direction from a new administration in Washington, we are poised in the U.S. to begin a transportation revolution that will bring economic development and a more people-centered transport system to our citizens.

I look forward to working on achieving this over the coming years.

Change is a process, not an event.

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