Breaking: AASHTO Withdraws Controversial Bike Recommendations

Image: National Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Bicycle advocacy groups were outraged recently when AASHTO (the national association of State DOTs) apparently called for a weakening of federal policy to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian facilities in highway construction projects.

Current law states that DOTS should give “due consideration” to bike/ped facilities in the development of transportation plans and highway projects.  AASHTO supports that law.  However, USDOT issued a directive recently that increases the threshold from “due consideration” to “accommodate”.  This did not go through the Congressional legislative process.  Some states argue that “accommodate” could set a legal requirement for all future highway projects to have a bike/ped component, which is unneeded in a number of road projects (think rural).

It is that new language that some state DOTs have expressed opposition to. Bike advocates claim that generally DOTs give lip service to “due consideration” of including bicycle and pedestrian facilities, even where it would make sense to add such facilities, and that the USDOT directive is necessary.

The current controversy erupted when AASHTO responded to USDOT‘s recent request for suggestions to change or eliminate regulations that are outdated, unnecessary, or excessively burdensome.  AASHTO passed along comments from some states recommending that the “due consideration” language be retained and not upgraded to “accommodate.”   This was misrepresented by some as an official AASHTO position.  It is not a Board-adopted position.

Bicycle groups were outraged.  A number of state DOTs were caught off-guard both by the AASHTO submission and the response it generated.

This morning AASHTO announced that it would withdraw its member’s request to not increase the threshold to “accommodate” and simply retain the current language of “due consideration.”  This will allow AASHTO time to meet with bicycle advocacy leaders (scheduled for May 19), and for the entire AASHTO Board to discuss the issue at their October annual meeting.

Previous coverage:

AASHTO: New Rule Makes it Too Hard to Ignore Cyclists and Pedestrian,” Streetsblog.DC

ODOT expresses “disappointment” in AASHTO guidelines stance,” BikePortland.org

AASHTO wants to weaken US DOT bicycle accommodation policy, bicyclists respond,” League Of American Bicyclists