Roads Aren’t Just for Cars Anymore

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The Americas have lagged behind Europe in promoting bicycle transportation, but recent government efforts may change that.

Bike Communting Wittwer family

Travis Wittwer loads his sons and his groceries into his cargo bike for the trip home. Travis is a teacher and stay-at-home dad in Portland, Ore. Read more in his blog "Wheel American Family."

Photo Icon 10 pxPhoto Essay of the biking Wittwer family.

Photo by Sara Cross.

In the United States, federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in March a new policy encouraging cities and states to include the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians in their transit infrastructure planning.

The Department of Transportation will discourage projects that negatively affect bikers and walkers, LaHood added.

 In an interview with The New York Times, LaHood called the policy a “game changer” as the country searches for more sustainable choices.

“It’s what Americans want,” LaHood said. “It’s a game changer because people do want to get out of congestion, they want to get out of their cars, they want to be able to enjoy the outdoors, they want to be able to recreate with their families.”

The projects range from accommodating bikes and pedestrian paths on bridges to tracking bike trips and keeping sidewalks and paths free of snow.

Cycling advocates praised the new policy, as it expands the focus of the Department of Transportation beyond motorized vehicles and recognizes that “[t]ransportation programs and facilities should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive.”

Meanwhile, Mexico City officials are piloting a bike-sharing program to reduce congestion and pollution. In a city with 4 million vehicles, only 1 percent of trips are made by bike. The program, still in its early stages, offers more than 1,000 bikes at stations around town. Officials hope to increase trips to 5 percent of the daily traffic.

The Mexican program is modeled after those in Copenhagen and Paris. People who enroll in the program pay an annual fee and get a card they can swipe at any of the stations. Cyclists pay a nominal fee for each hour they ride.

—Jeff Raderstrong is a Washington, D.C., writer who blogs at

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