Last week, the United States Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 2322, known as the “MAP-21 Reauthorization Act”. The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee.
Senator Carper tweeted that “Whether you drive a car, ride rail, or bike or walk, this bill would improve your commute and your quality of life.” Is he right about that?
The League of American Bicyclists gave the bill a “B+”:
“Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and her leadership colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee published their eagerly anticipated proposal for the next transportation bill — and the proposal gets a solid B+ rating from the League…
“Specifically, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a specific non-motorized safety performance measure — a key ask at the last two National Bike Summits and the subject of a concerted campaign over the past 18 months…”
“The bill certainly doesn’t do everything that we asked, but overall it’s very positive.”
I agree with the League’s analysis, particularly with regard to highlighting the inclusion of a safety “performance measure” from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (Senate Bill 1708). Just as in Senate Bill 1708, the Senate EPW Committee bill includes important language (shown in red below) to the section of the United States Code governing the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (“HSIP”).
USC Title 23 Section §150. National goals and performance management measures
(c) Establishment of Performance Measures
(4) Highway safety improvement program.-For the purpose of carrying out section 148, the Secretary shall establish measures for States to use to assess
(A) serious injuries and fatalities per vehicle mile traveled;
(B) the number of serious injuries and fatalities for both motorized and nonmotorized transportation.
Why are these 6 words important?
Last year, overall traffic fatalities fell in Delaware to their lowest level in 50 years. But this decline has been entirely driven by a decline in motor vehicle occupant fatalities. Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have not fallen. In fact, over a quarter of traffic fatalities in Delaware are now pedestrians. Over 25%!
By adding the six words (from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act), however, the Senate EPW Committee bill would create a “performance measure” for nonmotorized transportation safety for the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). And that is critically important because HSIP is the $2.4 billion annual federal program to improve road safety in the United States. It is the only federal program focused entirely on road safety. But, up to now, this program has not been used (much) to improve either pedestrian or cyclist safety. Look at these Delaware numbers for the program:
But by making “nonmotorized transportation” into a performance measure for the HSIP program, the Senate EPW bill would create, for the first time, a “yardstick” by which departments of transportation can start to hold themselves accountable for pedestrian and cyclist safety. It creates a number to measure and that’s critical because without a number to measure, how can DOT leaders be expected to manage?
As one of the “Big 4” negotiators of the Senate EPW bill approved last week, we almost certainly have Senator Carper to thank for the inclusion of this important safety provision in the committee bill. But we also have Senator Coons to thank, who agreed to be a co-sponsor of the original Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act in the Senate in March.
Please add your own thanks to both Senator Carper and Senator Coons!
Thank Senator Carper for including safety language for walking and cycling in the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act HERE.
Thank Senator Coons for being a co-sponsor of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (which helped get safety language for walking and cycling in the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act) HERE.
James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware.
• B+ for Boxer Bill (League of American Bicyclists)