"Well, there's about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails."
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters offered these comments August 15 on PBS in response to a question from an interviewer about where federal transportation money is being spent inappropriately. She appeared on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer to talk about the nation's transportation infrastructure in the wake of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.
In the course of the interview, Secretary Peters made several statements to the effect that one of the big problems in the U.S. is that transportation funds are being spent on non-transportation projects, including bike paths and bike trails, and that these things are not part of the transportation infrastructure.
To me, hearing such comments from the chief of transportation planning and policy in the United States is disturbing but, unfortunately not surprising, considering it eminates from a group of people who seem to consider the private automobile the only way to move people around. What was shocking was that Secretary Peters had either the gall or lack of savvy to speak those words publically, as opposed to repeating the usual lip service to bikes, rail services, etc., that we usually get.
You can email Secretary Peters to express your opinion on her thoughts. Here's what I wrote:
Dear Secretary Peters:
I was dismayed by your recent comments that projects related to bike trails and bike paths are not considered transportation infrastructure worthy of tax dollars.
I have not driven my car to work since June. In that time I have 1) improved my overall health; 2) reduced dependence on foreign oil 3) helped the environment by reducing pollution and 4) eased traffic congestion in my city.
Why in the world would we not want to encourage such behaviors? Spending tax dollars to enhance infrastructure that is friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians is money well spent.
Thanks for your consideration.