By Charles Pekow — Twice as much federal support for bicycling will be coming, but communities and advocates have to learn how to use it. Congress just passed a mammoth surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, that the U.S. Department of Transportation is trying to implement. Spending for most programs will increase a small amount each year for the next five years.
Among many other potential benefits, the bill includes more than $2.5 billion a year for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which funds innovative projects that can include infrastructure to encourage bicycling as a way to cut pollution. It also includes about $600 million a year for the Tribal Transportation Program, which can fund bike projects on Native American lands. In addition, more than $400 million can go to the Federal Lands Transportation Program that can build and improve bike trails in national parks, forests, monuments, wildlife preserves, etc.
The bill also requires an update to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to protect bicyclists. It also funds a research program to find ways to protect “vulnerable road users,” including bicyclists. Projects can examine everything from traffic calming devices to bike lanes, tools to evaluate efforts to protect bicyclists, and ways to help states collect cyclist/pedestrian injury and fatality data.
While the bill doesn’t earmark funds for Safe Routes to School, it opens the program up for high schools, requires each state to employ a full-time coordinator and allows infrastructure grants to improve bicycle routes within two miles of a school.
The bill also funds a $200 million/year Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program to pay for “Vision Zero” community projects to develop comprehensive local strategies to make streets safer for everyone, specifically including bike riders. The bill also calls for a report on ways states have successfully improved bike safety within two years.