New Federal Transportation Law Authorizes Billions for Bicycling
August 03, 2005
The new federal transportation bill approved July 29 by Congress will make bicycling safer, more convenient, and more fun for all Americans. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) authorizes as much as $4 billion in new federal spending on bike paths, trails, and related programs through September 2009. Every U.S. state and virtually every city should benefit. The gains for bicycling were largely engineered by the America Bikes Coalition, an unprecedented alliance of eight non-profit organizations, which received primary funding from the Bikes Belong Coalition. Supported by bicycle industry suppliers and retailers, Bikes Belong invested $2 million in this successful campaign. Based in Colorado, Bikes Belong is the national bicycle industry advocacy group dedicated to putting more people on bicycles more often. SAFETEA-LU’s total dollar authorization (for highways and mass transit as well as bicycling and walking) is $286.5 billion, or roughly $1,000 for every American man, woman, and child. Here’s a short list of the ways this law will benefit bicycling:
- Two key programs, Transportation Enhancements and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, could contribute close to $2 billion for new bike paths, lanes, and safe crossings.
- The law includes $612 million for a new federal Safe Routes to School program that will help communities create safe ways for kids to pedal and walk to school.
- An average of $70 million per year is authorized for the Recreational Trails Program, which pays for the construction and repair of trails. This $20-million-per-year increase will provide meaningful improvements for mountain biking.
- Another $100 million has been approved for a new program called Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Programs designed to develop model bicycle/pedestrian cities in Columbia, Missouri; Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Marin County, California; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- SAFETEA-LU includes more than $500 million (and perhaps as much as $1 billion) in guaranteed funding for high-priority projects with bicycling components that were requested by individual members of Congress. (This figure is still being calculated.)
For the last five years, Bikes Belong’s number one goal has been maximizing bike funding in this bill. Bikes Belong paid most of the operational and lobbying costs incurred by America Bikes, a coalition that includes Adventure Cycling Association, Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, International Mountain Bicycling Association, League of American Bicyclists, National Center for Bicycling and Walking, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Thunderhead Alliance, as well as Bike Belong. Bikes Belong also invested close to $1 million on a grassroots grants program designed to garner support for bicycling from members of Congress once they saw the benefits of new bike facilities in their home districts. “This transportation bill should be at least $1 billion better for bicycling than the last bill that passed in 1998,” said Bikes Belong executive director Tim Blumenthal. “In a time when the federal budget is severely strained and most programs have been cut or flat-funded, our gain is especially significant. “The entire bike industry came together and worked with bicycle advocacy groups in an energetic, effective campaign,” Blumenthal continued. “It’s proof that when we stand united, bicycling benefits.” Blumenthal said the member groups of America Bikes as well as local government agencies and advocacy groups still have lots of work to make sure the authorized money gets spent on bicycling. He said the new Safe Routes to School program is a special opportunity that promises tremendous benefits to children and the communities where they live. “We were successful because we banded together to support great advocates and lobbyists,” he said. “All of these groups and individuals, as well as the leaders of Congress who backed us, richly deserve our thanks and continuing support. “We were also successful because bicycling makes good sense for America. It boosts our economy, improves our health and our communities, and is a life-long activity for people all across America. We’ll keep working to make sure that the promise of this bill is realized so that it becomes one of the very best developments in the long, storied history of bicycling in America.” about SAFETEA-LU.