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U.S. DOT, HHS Announce Public Health Campaign to Reduce Driving

8:39 AM PDT on April 2, 2013

We have some sudden, unexpected, exciting news for you today, readers. Across the Streetsblog Network today, bold, smart, truly transformative transportation reforms are being cheerfully reported with surprising regularity.

Brendon Slotterback at Streets.nm kicks it off with the delightful news that U.S. DOT and the Department of Health and Human Services have come together to launch a nationwide public health campaign aimed at, yes, reducing driving:

Standing side by side with many state DOT heads, US DOT Secretary Ray La Hood and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced a new public safety campaign to encourage less driving, lower speeds, and encourage more cycling and walking to meet the nation’s transportation needs.

“For too long, the assumption has been that the negative impacts of auto travel are just the price we must pay for modern life”, said Secretary LaHood, “Well, no longer. It’s time to build a people-centered transportation system. We have the tools and policies to make change now, and we need to get to work.” LaHood urged DOTs and municipalities to begin immediately by reducing speed limits on residential streets, narrowing streets, and installing protected cycling facilities. LaHood also pointed to the benefits of the change, citing the continuing decline in vehicle travel nationwide. “Cities, counties and states no longer need to pour money into new infrastructure that will serve fewer and fewer drivers while their existing roads crumble. We’ll be doing our pocketbooks and the climate a favor while we reactivate our streets and improve public health”.

Meanwhile, there's more reason to celebrate in Toronto. Network blog BikeTO comes through with the revelation that the city has plans for a new $500 million protected bike lane network:

Toronto city council will spend $500 million over the next two years building a network of separated bike lanes that will criss-cross the city, connecting the disjointed parts of the city's existing cycling network. The major construction project, which has been percolating in secret for over a year, will include free tire pumping stations and a number of parking corrals at busy downtown locations.

Meanwhile, Kaid Benfield at the Natural Resources Defense Council announces that his organization and the Congress for New Urbanism have settled some long-standing disputes about the proper form and location of urban development.

NRDC, self-styled as “the nation's most effective environmental action group,” and CNU, known internally as the “leading organization promoting sustainable communities and healthier living conditions,” have worked together for years but sometimes at odds over where and how real estate development should take place. Under today’s agreement, CNU’s architects, planners, and developers will no longer pursue so-called “leapfrog” development isolated from cities and suburbs, known in CNU parlance as “new towns.” NRDC's attorneys and scientists, for their part, will no longer oppose development in any form within existing downtowns, or redevelopment in suburbs, no matter how egregious environmentally.

Okay, it's April 1st, and none of these stories are actually happening. But they do paint a pretty compelling picture of what success would look like. Maybe they're not as far-fetched as they seem.

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