For the past 20 years, the federal Transportation program has included dedicated funding for biking and walking. Over the course of twenty years and three federal transportation laws, federal support for bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure projects has slowly ticked upwards. As a result, more and more communities feature safe roads for people who travel on foot or by bicycle and more people are bicycling — there has been a 40% increase in bicycling from 2000 to 2009 and a surge in Bicycle Friendly Communities.Nooo! Bike-friendly roads are safer for everyone (even drivers, who travel more slowly and smoothly in the presence of bikes). Bike-friendly communities are the healthiest and most attractive places to live. The critical importance of healthy kids goes without saying. So, why is this short-sighted action a good idea to anyone?
In 1992, Congress passed ISTEA, the first federal transportation bill to include funding for transit, biking, and walking. As each consecutive transportation bill passed and continued dedicated funding for biking and walking, funding increased from $23 million for 50 new projects in 1992 to $297 million dollars and 971 projects in 2000, to a record $1.2 billion dollars and 3010 projects in 2009.
However, recently there has been a drop in funding and projects — since 2009 — as a result of the decline in stimulus spending that was available for a limited period and uncertainty over the future of the programs. A similar phenomenon occurred between 1997 and 2005. Now, however, a new transportation bill threatens to eliminate federal support for biking and walking infrastructure all together.
Next Thursday, the House Transportation Committee will vote (see timeline) on the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, a bill that eliminates crucial funds for biking and walking. Representatives on the Transportation Committee are key positions to save dedicated funding for biking and walking.
The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, the long awaited multi-year Transportation bill, eliminates the two largest programs that fund biking and walking infrastructure — Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School. Without these programs, communities all over the country will lose resources to build the sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that make biking and walking safe and accessible in communities across the country.
Please PLEASE take the time to contact your Representative to ensure future funding for safe routes!