The new federal transportation law (MAP-21) presents plenty of challenges, but here’s some good news: The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) could turn out to be one of the brighter spots for bicycling.
The program is used to address a wide variety of safety concerns, like seat belt use, drunk driving, and high-collision locations (often fixing bad roadway design). Safety was such a central theme in the federal transportation debate that Congress allocated $2.4 billion annually to HSIP — an increase from $1 billion under the previous law. And that’s not all: There will be improvements in data collection and cost-effectiveness analysis of safety projects that will benefit bicycles, too.
We’ve already blogged and written reports about the importance of including bicycle safety in the state Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). Based on the 2012 Bicycle Friendly States survey, 29 states currently include bicycle safety in their SHSP. Now that’s more important than ever, what can advocates do if your state isn’t on this list?
Under MAP-21 states have to consult with a “non-motorized” representative when writing the SHSP. The language isn’t clear whether this means a state employee (bicycle and pedestrian coordinators would be a good fit) or an advocate. Senator Udall from New Mexico, who offered the amendment, intends for the representative to be an advocate. The MAP-21 guidance from the U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to provide an answer.
Fortunately, there is plenty of precedent for bicycle advocates helping to craft the state SHSP and increase HSIP bike safety spending. These examples are especially important if your state Department of Transportation is hesitant or resistant to adding a bicycle safety advocate. The League reviewed the 29 SHSPs that currently include bicycle safety as an emphasis area. The majority consult with state and local advocates. Several states to highlight include:
Click here for the full listing of bicycle safety stakeholders in SHSPs
Having advocates actively involved in the program will help improve the abysmal track record of HSIP spending on bicycle safety. In California, bicycle advocates made sure to have representatives on each of the topic area committees drafting the state SHSP. This directly resulted in the state beginning to prioritize and spend HSIP funds on bicycle safety.
Check out the Advocacy Advance Highway Safety Improvement Program report to learn how to get involved and create safer streets for bicycles.
League State and Local Advocacy Coordinator
Mr. Wempe joined the League in September 2011. For the three years prior, he worked as a transportation planner and Safe Routes to School Coordinator in Fort Collins, Colo. He holds a BA in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.