Speeches and Presentations

Remarks: 2015 National Walking Summit

Dr. Mark R. Rosekind , NHTSA Administrator

Thursday, October 29, 2015 | Washington, D.C.

Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D.
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
As Prepared for Delivery

Surgeon General Murthy, thank you, and thank you to America Walks, to Kaiser Permanente and the other sponsors of this week’s summit for focusing attention on this issue of major significance to our country.

And it is an issue of nationwide importance. It’s an issue of great significance to Secretary Foxx and all of us at DOT – and in fact, to all of us with a duty to help ensure safe, efficient, effective transportation at the federal, state and local level.

So why is something as simple as walking – among the very first things most of us learn to do – a national issue? Policies that encourage walkable communities are important because walking and cycling offer transportation without the environmental costs of vehicles. They can be solutions to the congestion problems that plague our communities today and are only going to grow in the future. They meet our responsibility to provide efficient transportation to all Americans, regardless of economic status, and to ensure that transportation policy offers every American the chance at the economic opportunities at the heart of the American dream.

Perhaps the most important reason to pursue these policies is that they go directly to the top mission at DOT, Secretary Foxx’s number one priority: The safety and health of the people we serve. We need these policies because we need to ensure that every American has the ability to get where they’re going, safely, every single trip, whether they drive, ride, bike or walk. And, as the Surgeon General just outlined, it has never been more clear that walkable communities contribute to the long term health of our communities. In short: We need to do our part to make sure Americans are traveling safely today, and that they are healthy and well tomorrow.

That’s why making our roads usable for all Americans, including walkers, has been a focus for Secretary Foxx.

Last year, the Secretary launched the Department’s “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative, a Department-wide effort to address non-motorized transportation issues and help communities create safer, better-connected transportation networks for pedestrians and cyclists.

As part of the initiative, the Secretary issued the Mayors’ Challenge, a call to communities across the country to embrace policies that encourage safer streets for non-motorized transportation. More than 230 cities have joined that challenge.

With DOT’s assistance, they have taken such actions as adopting a Complete Streets approach; gathering data to assess pedestrian and cyclist needs; identifying barriers to safe and efficient movement by pedestrians, cyclists and those using mobility devices; and adopting laws and enforcement strategies designed to promote safety for non-motorized users.

And the Department’s “Beyond Traffic” report includes policy options that can ensure safe walking for the decades to come.

That’s not all. Just this week, the Department took two new steps to move the nation forward in this area.

First, just yesterday, DOT released its Pedestrian and Bicyclist Road Safety Assessments report.

NHTSA and other DOT operating administrations and field offices convened more than 50 local assessments across the nation to support Secretary Foxx’s priority of improving pedestrian and bicycle safety. I participated personally in an assessment in San Francisco, and I can tell you that these were not only great opportunities to learn about what is happening right down to the street level; they were also great opportunities to encourage relationships between the many jurisdictions that share responsibility for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

DOT’s report on those assessments summarizes not only the obvious shortcomings in safe infrastructure, but also policy and practice issues that can be a barrier to creating safer streets. It suggestions potential activities to address these challenges, as well as resources to help local communities address them. It’s available on DOT’s website and I encourage you all to take a look.

Second, this week DOT and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new Transportation and Health Tool, designed to help transportation decision makers understand how their state or community is performing on key health and transportation indicators.

This is part of a growing trend of collaboration among transportation and public health practitioners, another sign of the growing recognition that health and transportation are intertwined.

The tool will provide transportation decision-makers with an overview of how their decisions affect the health of the communities they serve. And it will help public health professionals identify transportation-related health challenges so they can advise the transport sector on health-conscious policy choices.

Among the 14 indicators that are part of the tool are measures of how a jurisdiction uses Federal transportation funds for pedestrian and bicycle programs; the extent of walking, bicycling, and transit trips for local transportation; adoption of Complete Streets policies; and several measures of roadway fatalities. Beyond providing indicators, the tool provides 25 evidence-based strategies that professionals in transportation and public health can use to address the nexus of mobility and health.

We encourage you to access the tool on DOT’s website at www.transportation.gov/transportation-health-tool. That’s transportation dot gov, slash, transportation, hyphen, health, hyphen, tool. We hope that the tool will be useful to those working to respond to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action. We think it can make a difference across the country. And we need to make that difference. We need communities where all of us can get where we’re going, safely, every time, and communities where transportation fulfills its essential role of boosting the health and prosperity of the American people. Thank you.