Last week the United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill. The legislation includes funding for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies. In addition, the committee also issued an accompanying report in which it directs United States Department of Transportation to reduce walking and cycling fatalities:
“The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015….
(page 31): Safety performance measures and reporting requirements.—On March 11, 2014, FHWA published an NPRM to establish safety performance measures for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) as required by section 1203 of MAP–21. The NPRM proposes to establish one measure for each of the following areas as mandated by MAP–21: number of fatalities; fatality rate; number of serious injuries; and serious injury rate. In addition, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) already uses performance measures for pedestrian fatalities in administering NHTSA’s highway traffic safety grant program, the Committee understands that NHTSA intends to establish performance measures for bicycle fatalities when it administers its fiscal year 2015 traffic safety grants. Recognizing the increase in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, the Secretary of Transportation should establish separate non-motorized safety performance measures for the purpose of carrying out HSIP requirements. The FHWA [Federal Highway Administration] should define these performance measures specifically to evaluate the number of fatalities and serious injuries for pedestrian and bicycle crashes. The statutory deadline for completing the rulemaking has come and gone. The Committee directs FHWA to publish its final rule on safety performance measures no later than 60 days after the enactment of this Act.” [emphases added]
This is the second congressional committee within a month to give plain direction to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to establish a walking and cycling safety performance measurement yardstick. On May 15, the United States Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 2322, known as the “MAP-21 Reauthorization Act” which would, by law, establish a safety performance measure for walking and cycling for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (the only program of the United States government focused entirely on road safety).
Within weeks of each other, two congressional committees, one controlled by the Democrats and one controlled by the Republicans, have now unambiguously declared that walking and cycling safety need to be a numerically measured priority for the Highway Safety Improvement Program of the United States government.
In September of 2013, Bike Delaware made the exact same point in a direct letter to USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx (whose agency includes Federal Highway Administration) about the need for a numerical safety performance measure for walking and cycling.
It’s not clear to me why the Federal Highway Administration is having such a hard time grasping the – when you get right down to it – almost childishly simply point that there needs to be a numerical safety goal for walking and cycling. If we don’t measure what we’re doing, how can we know whether the money we are spending is having any impact?
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James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware.