After a long period of inaction on Capitol Hill, the wheels are beginning to turn again. Lawmakers introduced not one but two good transportation-related bills yesterday: one that aims to improve the safety of walking and biking and one that would establish a national infrastructure bank.
We’ll get into the infrastructure bank bill in a separate post. First, let’s look at the bill Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced last night. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494) would establish performance measures for pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Specifically, it would direct U.S. DOT to create metrics for states to assess and address “serious injuries and fatalities per vehicle mile traveled” and “the number of serious injuries and fatalities” for “non-motorized transportation” — a.k.a. walking and biking. Current law has no such emphasis on active transportation.
Reps. Howard Coble of North Carolina and Mike McCaul of Texas — both Republicans — co-sponsored the bill, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat. They are all members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, which Blumenauer founded.
In his statement on the bill, Blumenauer noted that the number of bike commuters has increased by more than 60 percent over the last decade. “As transportation systems adjust to handle different types of road users, the federal government must encourage appropriate standards to ensure road user safety,” he said.
Pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 17 percent of traffic fatalities last year — a proportion that’s on the rise. But less than 1 percent of transportation safety funds support infrastructure for walking and biking.
“While overall traffic deaths are down, the number of bicyclists dying on our roadways has increased by nine percent and pedestrian deaths have gone up by three percent recently,” said Coble in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation strives to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed and injured on our roadways. It will help protect all users of our transportation system, while giving states flexibility to enact measures that make sense for them.”
Indeed, the legislation preserves state control by allowing states to set their own safety targets, with “the flexibility to choose the best methods to meet them,” according to the press release.