Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Proposed Transportation bill contains mandatory sidepath law

The Wash Cycle summarizes key bicycle-related provisions of the proposed Senate Transportation bill:
First of all it rolls three key bicycle programs into CMAQ, funds them at a lower level than all the programs combined got last year, and then allows states to spend that money on nothing but roads.
Among the casualties are three key bike-ped programs: Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails. Those programs would be consolidated and listed as “eligible uses” under an $833 million subset of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ). That would represent a sharp drop from the $1.15 billion devoted to those programs in 2010. That year, Transportation Enhancements was funded at $878 million, Safe Routes to School at $183 million, and Recreational Trails at $85 million.

States could also divert their share of the $833 million to projects that add traffic lanes or don’t involve bike and pedestrian infrastructure at all. The bike-ped sub-category of CMAQ spending would be broadened to allow new road construction as an eligible use if the project “enhances connectivity and includes public transportation, pedestrian walkways or bicycle infrastructure.”
But if the effective loss of federal funding isn't enough, there's also the loss of access to roads on federal lands (page 226):
(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road.
This is bad news for bicyclists. Sidepaths adjacent to roads are often in very poor condition. Fairfax hasn't had funds to maintain their paths for many years; imagine if cyclists were required to ride on these trails and were denied their right to ride on the road, roads that are only partially funded by user fees. General taxes cover more than half the cost of most roads.

America Bikes, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the League of American Bicyclists are all working hard to change the proposed bill. America Bikes created a comparison of the proposed and current bills.

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