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Ohio Congressman recants, decides LaHood’s complete streets policy is not so “radical” after all

In an Associated Press story on April 15, Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette was quoted decrying the apparently “radical” idea that the safety and comfort of people on foot or bicycle deserve as much consideration as those in cars. He even jokingly asked if the new “equal footing” policy for bicyclists may have the product of drug use at the USDOT. LaTourette created a strawman – equal funding for bicycle infrastructure and roads – to attack a sensible and long overdue change.

To his credit, LaTourette has fully recanted the statement and apologized for any misunderstanding, a result due in part to significant pushback from the bicycling community in his 14th Congressional District and throughout the country. In a message aimed at the cycling community, the Congressman said his comments were intended for levity rather than insult and called biking a legitimate form of transportation that ought to be taken seriously.

I regret the online story caused so much anxiety and that it made some of you question me. Nothing has changed my ardent support of bike trails, bike lanes and the right of cyclists to share the road. This has been a lesson on the power of the Internet, and it sure has given me a new respect for the fierce advocacy from the cycling community.

LaTourette also cited his support for the Safe Routes to Schools program and other active living efforts. LaTourette’s consistent support for funding bike paths in his own district was not lost on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who noted after the initial hearing: “He knows people in his district like them.”

Transportation, like most issues these days, is highly polarized, but LaTourette’s experience with his own constituents confirms what Transportation for America’s recent poll found: people want their streets to be safe enough for kids to ride their bikes to school. They want seniors to be able to cross the street safely and for bicycling and walking to be legitimate ways of getting around. None of this takes away from cars. If anything, giving a greater voice to bicyclists makes our streets safer and more accessible to everyone.

LaTourette did the right thing by clearing up this controversy and making amends with cyclists in Ohio’s 14th Congressional District and around the country.