By Charles Pekow — Federal transportation policy could take a giant leap toward helping bicycling – as soon as next year.
Congress has to pass a surface transportation bill this year, as the current one is expiring. It's possible that it could pass a short-term extension of the existing law, but the House already passed the mammoth Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act (H.R. 2), also known as the Moving Forward Act for the People. It would extend federal aid through FY 25.
The INVEST bill and the House report on it mention bicycling 100 times and call for new and expanded safety programs. H.R. 2 would reauthorize the Transportation Alternatives Program and Recreational Trails, the two biggest sources of federal funding to states for bicycling. The bill passed the House of Representatives on July 20, 2020. The Senate has yet to act, however.
The bill would add planning for “vulnerable road user safety” as an eligible purpose for Alternatives funding. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) serving fewer than 200,000 people would become eligible grantees.
Bikeshare and scooter sharing programs would be listed as an eligible activity for Congestion Mitigation And Air Quality grants, and high schools would become eligible for Safe Routes to School grants.
Among other new provisions:
- A new Automated Vehicles and Road User Interactions Study Working Group, which would include representatives of bicycle safety programs, would get two years to file a report on safety issues with driverless autos.
- Roadway design standards would get rewritten to require consideration of all users, including bicyclists, when appropriate.
- States would be required under the Highway Safety Improvement Program to identify places of special danger to cyclists and pedestrians. States with high rates of cycling casualties would have to develop strategies, such as Vision Zero planning, to address the problem. MPOs with high rates and populations above 200,000 would have to do the same.
- States would have to employ a fulltime bike/ped coordinator.
- The U.S. Dept. of Transportation would have to produce a biennial state-by-state bike/ped safety assessment.
- Amtrak would have “to report to Congress before implementing a new policy or operation that may impede recreational trail access.”
- The University Transportation Centers Program would be expanded to include a focus on bike/ped safety.
Read the bill at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/2