By Mary Lauran Hall, Communications Coordinator, America Bikes
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.
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.
We can’t let that happen – take action now and ask your elected officials to preserve biking and walking.
Biking and walking are essential parts of everyday transportation in the U.S., and turning off federal funding for projects that keep Americans safe would represent a significant step backwards.
Federal funding for biking and walking keeps people safe. Two out of three pedestrian deaths take place on roads built with federal funding, and new sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways help end preventable deaths and make roads safer for everyone. Moreover, biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips, but only 1.5 percent of all federal transportation funding.
America Bikes is working in conjunction with their partners to introduce an amendment that will preserve funding for biking and walking. During Thursday’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee vote in the House, Representatives will have the opportunity to pass this amendment to save biking and walking.