Environment Picture

MEC lobbies to make roads friendly, safe for the two-wheeled and the two-legged

Reforms would accommodate bikes, buses, pedestrians and the disabled
Roads built and improved with federal funds would be required to serve everyone using the roadway, including pedestrians, people on bicycles or those catching the bus, as well as those with disabilities under proposed federal legislation.

The Michigan Environmental Council has lobbied Michigan’s Congressional delegation on behalf of the package, introduced recently by Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA). It is called the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2008 (HR 5951).

“As skyrocketing gasoline prices have people scrambling for transportation alternatives, it is especially important that we diversify our roadways to provide real choices,” said Tim Fischer, MEC’s deputy policy director.

MEC and several of its member groups have been aggressively pursing similar state-level reforms. MEC has lobbied the Michigan Department of Transportation, among others, to endorse common sense transportation solutions that address increasing concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and auto-dependent development.

“There are many neighborhoods and areas in Michigan where it is literally too dangerous to consider walking or bicycling from place to place because the infrastructure is so foreboding,” said Brad Garmon, MEC’s land programs director. “But we believe we’re making progress in retooling Michigan’s policy framework to accommodate alternatives to the automobile.”

The measure gained impetus in May when Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) signed on as first Republican co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, S 2686, the Complete Streets Act of 2008. This is the first time that comprehensive Complete Streets bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.

Across the country, many transportation agencies have continued to design roads primarily for drivers, discouraging bicycling and leaving those on foot tramping through a track worn in the grass. Transit users often face dangerous crossings and uncomfortable waits, while people who use wheelchairs or have vision impairments often cannot venture out at all due to a lack of sidewalks and curb ramps. And surveys show Americans of all ages and income levels want safe places to walk and ride bicycles.

Complete Streets policies require transportation planners to take the needs of all users into account in all upcoming transportation projects, so the road network can be gradually improved for everyone. Oregon, Virginia, Illinois, California and Massachusetts are among the states that have adopted Complete Streets policies or laws; dozens of counties, regional transportation agencies, and cities and regions have also adopted the policies in the last few years.
RELATED TOPICS: transportation policy
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