New transportation bill severely cuts biking & walking funding

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On Friday, Congress will vote on a new transportation bill that reverses years of progress on biking and walking policy and eliminates all dedicated funding for local safety projects such as bike lanes, bike paths and sidewalks.

The bill covers a two-year period that ends September 30, 2014. Approval by the House, Senate and President Obama is a near-certainty—if not this week, then in the next couple weeks.

The bill eliminates the federal Safe Routes to School program. It also eliminates the Transportation Enhancements program that has been the number one source of funding for cost-effective bike infrastructure projects of all kinds.

For the past 20 years, a modest portion of federal transportation investments — less than one percent of all transportation funding — has been dedicated to biking and walking projects that make streets more accessible for everybody, reduce preventable traffic fatalities, help boost local economic development, and create construction jobs. But, despite an outpouring of support from mayors, county executives, and the American public, the deal negotiated by a small number of Congress members behind closed doors eliminates much of this popular funding.

How much funding will be eliminated? This is a difficult question to answer today. Some states will likely spend 75-80 percent of what they’ve traditionally invested in bike infrastructure. Others may reduce their spending to almost zero. A lot will depend on the work of bike advocates and bike businesses—with strong support from the public—to convince state and local leaders that bike investments are essential and beneficial.

“This new transportation bill is bad news for biking and walking,” said Caron Whitaker, campaign director of America Bikes. “Across the country, people are biking and walking more, and vehicle miles traveled are decreasing. Young people are delaying getting their driver’s licenses and the real estate market shows that people want to live and work in areas where they can walk and bike safely. Yet this new bill ignores current trends and includes drastic and disproportionate cuts to biking and walking.”

“These drastic cuts to biking and walking funding do not save the federal government any money,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “Rather, it keeps current levels of funding and directs funds away from street safety projects. Moreover, it’s ironic that Congress is calling this a jobs bill. Biking and walking infrastructure projects create 46 percent more jobs per federal dollar than traditional road projects, yet this bill attempts to reduce the number of such projects across the country.”

“With these devastating cuts, children’s lives are in danger,” said Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. “The annual cost to hospitalize children for injuries due to bicycle and pedestrian collisions is more than the entire amount of Transportation Alternatives funding in the new transportation bill, and Safe Routes to School will only get a fraction of those dollars.”

“Bicycling has developed broad and increasing support from local governments, health care leaders, small business, and, most importantly, the American people,” said Tim Blumenthal, president of Bikes Belong. “The effort to make bicycling safer and easier for all Americans—a push that includes cost-effective investments in infrastructure–will continue to grow.”