Bicycle Safety Funds Could Be Better Utilized

By Charles Pekow

A pot of gold for promoting bicycle safety remains largely unused in most of the country. It comes from the same federal law that funds Transportation Enhancements, Recreational Trails, and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants, long used for bicycle projects.

The 2006 SAFETEA-LU Act created the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) in addition to the traditional programs named above. HSIP funds programs to reduce traffic deaths – and bicycle programs count.

“To date, bicycle and pedestrian projects have not received a fair share of HSIP funds,” says Getting a Fair Share for Safety from HSIP, a report from the Advocacy Alliance, a joint venture of the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

Still, some states are using the money to create bike lanes and make intersections safer for cyclists. Virginia, for instance, reserves 10 percent of its federal highway safety money for bicyclist/pedestrian projects, a figure in line with the percentage of their traffic fatalities. Bicycle advocates in Hawaii made a point to get on the committee that determines HSIP funding right from the start.

Idaho's formula for allocating HSIP money is based on the percentage of crashes for any transit mode. “We have an extremely low bicycle and pedestrian crash rate,” explains Maureen Gresham, bicycle & pedestrian coordinator for the Idaho Transportation Department. “That is fortunate (but therefore) the majority of the money goes to other” areas. But the state has used some HSIP for bike safety. “We have been providing helmets to local community events. If you have a bicycle rodeo, we'll provide helmets if you are doing education programs. We have a very limited amount of money coming from HSIP. There is not a lot you can do with $1,000-$2,000.”

The report details how bicycle advocates can push their states to get a fair share of HSIP money. Read the report at http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/reports/pdfs/hsip_casestudies_shsp_emphasis.pdf.

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