Believe it or not, the majority of people who own bikes don’t dress up in spandex. Most of us rely on a bicycle as a form of recreation, escape and, quite vitally, transportation. More of us would go by bike with better infrastructure and safety measures; that’s why 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for bikes.
On the heels of what is an on-going bike boom caused by the pandemic, more Americans than ever have access to a bicycle. With continued worries about the health and safety risks of public transportation, many of us are choosing between driving and pedaling at a pivotal time in history. The world is facing a climate crisis created by fossil fuels, an economic crisis created by a virus, and societal change created by centuries of inequality. Cycling can play a role in providing much-needed answers, and it appears the US now has a Secretary of Transportation that doesn’t mind a ride.
The role isn’t what Pete Buttegeig would have hoped for when he started his presidential bid way back in 2018. However, after his campaign sputtered out, his name was bandied about to fill a number of roles in whatever administration finally took office. With his confirmation as transportation secretary, Buttegeig inherited a department with over 60,000 employees and the ability to influence policy for over 350 million Americans for the next four years.
That’s a promising prospect for cyclists of every interest and ability. The US needs investment and support to reshape roads and communities that were designed for cars, not people. That has contributed to hundreds of unnecessary deaths every year and discouraged many more from viewing cycling as a safe and viable transportation option. That has contributed to on-going carbon emissions that have driven the world into a climate crisis that may already be too late to resolve.
Buttegeig has expressed support for including non-motorized transportation as a part of a comprehensive policy change to prioritize bikes, scooters, and pedestrians, as well as public transportation as soon as those means are safe again.
He’s not just going through the motions, either. Buttegeig is scheduled to join a virtual conference held by the League of American Bicyclists, bringing together the voices of over 1,000 transportation and cycling advocates to discuss the role the bike will play in the future of moving, and rebuilding, a United States struggling with plenty of issues.
We live in a leader-driven society, and when that drive comes from the top, things get done. Cycling advocacy and equitable transportation, not to mention the environment, aren’t political issues. These are hurdles, or opportunities, to improve the lives of millions of Americans when they need it most.
Check out Sec. Buttegeig’s Axios interview on his transportation plans here.