Of all the Fastlane entries over the first days of this Administration, the one that has generated the most responses is the one on my address to the National Bike Summit. We all know that bikers are passionate about their wheels; we also know that bicyclists are vulnerable to automobiles and need secure lanes and greater awareness from drivers. On Earth Day, it seems appropriate to talk about bicycling, not only as recreation, but as an environmentally sound commuting option. And, about what the DOT is doing to improve the cyclist's commute.
Bicycling was one of the earliest beneficiaries of stimulus funding, with portions of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act explicitly devoted to bicycling, and this department has been very active in getting that funding out the door. States must spend 3 percent of their allocation on the Transportation Enhancements program, which is a primary source of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure funding. The remainder of the “highway” money also creates an opportunity to build complete streets. All of the highway funding is flexible, and bicycle and pedestrian projects are eligible. The 3 percent in Transportation Enhancements is a floor not a ceiling. 30 percent of a state’s allocation is sub-allocated to urbanized areas, where commuting by bicycle is most likely.
$3.1 billion is provided for the Energy Efficiency and Block Grant Program, which provides formula funding to cities, counties, and states to undertake a range of energy efficiency activities. One eligible use of funding is for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. $1 billion is provided for the Community Development Block Grants program, which provides formula funding to cities and counties that meet certain criteria to undertake community improvement activities. One eligible use of funding is for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
So, a number of funding opportunities exist, but cycling advocates must get their cities and states to request funds for these purposes. Many states, counties, and municipalities have already done so.
When I told the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit that "Cyclists are important users of America's transportation systems," I meant it. And, when I wrote that "With DOT, bicyclists have a full partner in working toward livable communities," I meant that as well. President Obama has challenged us to transform the way transportation serves the American people by creating more choices and encouraging less carbon-intensive transportation, and we are working hard on that challenge.
The upcoming reauthorization of DOT’s surface transportation programs provides an opportunity for us to feature bicycling as part of a new American mobility within livable communities. As I said today in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, this includes fostering communities where bicyclists feel both safe and welcome on the roadways. Bike-friendly development also has the potential to contribute significantly to the revitalization of downtown districts and offer an alternative to sprawl and automobile-focused commuting.
Earth Day is today, but we'll need the sustained engagement of bicycle commuters and their advocates in the weeks and months to come to help keep the wheels of bicycle-friendly legislation on the road.