Harkin "Complete Streets" Amendment fails; MO Sen. Bond speaks against

The Harkin "Complete Streets" Amendment came to a vote in the U.S. Senate today.

The amendment, supported by AmericaBikes, the Thunderhead Alliance, the League of American Bicyclists, the Missouri Bicycle Federation, and bicycle organizations around the state, would have ensured that bicycle and pedestrian planning and safety procedures were carried out.

The amendment would have adopted the FHWA's Bicycle and Pedestrian Design Guidance of 2000, which formalizes the "Complete Streets" agenda.

The Complete Streets Amendment was defeated by a vote of 44 in favor, 53 against.

Although Complete Streets did not prevail this time, it made an unexpectedly strong showing. This sets the stage very well for the future.

Both Missouri senators and both Kansas senators voted against the amendment, despite a tremendous grass-roots campaign (part of a national grass-roots campaign) in support of the amendment.

Senator Harkin of Iowa spoke in favor of the bill.

Senator Bond of Missouri spoke emphatically against the bill.

Bond indicated (incorrectly) that the bill would require the construction of bicycle paths along highways in places like the Ozarks and out in the farmland. "People are not going to ride bicycles along those highways," stated Senator Bond. In those places "they need the room, the facilities, and the lanes to drive cars."

"Putting an additional planning burden on agencies that don't want or need bicycle paths is another unwarrantted mandate."

(See the Congressional Record's text of Sen. Bond's remarks here. Note that the above quotations are transcribed from the CSPAN2 broadcast and are not from the Congressional Record.)

Unfortunately, Senator Bond was factually incorrect on several of the points he made:
  • The Complete Streets amendment did not require "bicycle paths". Suitable accommodation in the situations he describes is generally in form of shared lanes or shoulders. MoDOT's current standards call for shoulders in such situations and it costs little or nothing (bike-safe grates, etc.) to make these shoulders suitable for bicycling.

  • This type of bicycle accommodation is extremely inexpensive.

  • The FHWA Design Guidance allows plenty of exceptions for situations in which there is actually no pedestrian or bicycle demand. In such situations (which, however, may be far more rare than Mr. Bond allows), no accommodation is required.

  • The FHWA Design Guidance allows for a great deal of latitude in accomodating local conditions. For example, pedestrian accommodations on a highway bridge in a rural community might be completely different from those on an otherwise similar bridge in a densely populated urban area.

  • As MoBikeFed members can attest, there are many beautiful and often-used bicycle routes that go through farmland and Ozark hills "with nobody around". For some documented examples, see MoBikeFed's routes and maps page.